The soiled thoughts of an aspiring superintendent

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Independent Study: Sustainable Golf Course Management November 30, 2010

Filed under: Independent Study — Graham J. Wieja @ 5:55 pm

What is it? How do we achieve it?

•Maximize plant health culturally
•Correct major soil drainage or chemical problems
•Become a keen observer and meticulous record keeper
•Fine tune fungicide programs by choosing the best nozzles repeated calibrations
•Utilize fertilizers that contain phosphite (H2PO3-) for preventative anthracnose foliar blight and pythium blight management

Best Disease Management Programs
The best disease management programs utilize an integrated approach. This includes:
• Improving plant health (Host)
• Utilize an appropriate mowing strategy (Host)
• Correct pathogen identification (Pathogen)
• Establish disease thresholds (Pathogen)
• Evaluate the growing environment for shade and air circulation (Environment)
• Maintain environmental safety (Environment)

Improve plant health by correcting major soil drainage or chemical problems, managing thatch, limiting shade, maintaining good airflow, and providing optimum turfgrass fertility. This is the cornerstone of turfgrass management. Proper equipment calibration and selection of the best nozzles and water volume carrier will maximize fungicide efficacy. Establishing and maintaining disease thresholds starts with scouting and mapping and requires meticulous record keeping. Historical data tell us when conditions are conducive to disease development. Implement a disease control program based on this information. Maintain environmental safety by developing pesticide and fertility programs that are safe for ground and surface water, animals, and humans.

Use of Phosphonates
Phosphites work both directly and indirectly to enhance disease suppression and should be used exclusively as one component to a preventative disease management program. (See reverse for research data.)


Proper Turfgrass Fertility Management November 16, 2010

Filed under: Independent Study — Graham J. Wieja @ 10:40 pm

Fertility Reccomendations

For a high quality, stress tolerant turf the major factors are:
1) Good soil conditions
(texture, structure, drainage);
2) Using grasses well adapted to the site and use conditions;
3) Good management practices (mowing, fertilization, irrigation, pest management, thatch
control, treatment for compaction);
4) Reasonable use of the turf. Although fertilization is just one of these factors, proper fertilization is essential for maintenance of cool season grasses.

To develop a sound fertilization program one must first understand the growth cycle of cool season grasses and how fertilization, particularly with nitrogen, affects the plant physiologically. Understanding how the plant generates, stores, and utilizes carbohydrates helps understand why it responds to different conditions. While all nutrients are important for good turf, management of nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) have the greatest influence on plant health. A healthy turf is much easier to manage.

Nitrogen management has many important impacts on turf. Among these are:
1) color;
2) top growth;
3) density – competition with weedy species and recuperative potential after turf
has thinned;
4) wear tolerance;
5) level of carbohydrate reserves;
6) root growth, rhizome and/or
stolon growth;
7) susceptibility to diseases,
9) susceptibility to stress conditions(extremes of temperature, moisture, traffic, shade).

I’ve learned much about how potassium plays significant roles in plant health, including influence on:
1) top growth;
2) root growth;
3) carbohydrate synthesis in the plant;
4) cell size and cell wall thickness;
5) how water is stored in the plant;
6) turgor pressure;
7) control of stomatal openings and wilting tendency. The bottom line is that adequate K is
necessary for a healthy, stress tolerant turf.

Turfgrass growth stages can be grouped into several categories during the typical year:early spring, late spring, summer, fall, and late fall. During early spring (April through early May, depending on the year) the typical growth curve begins with the grass breaking dormancy as air temperatures warm. This early growth utilizes carbohydrates stored the previous fall. For this reason, fertilization in the fall is a very important part of a good fertility program. Continued increases in air temperatures result in increasing soil temperatures.

Poa annua (annual bluegrass) comes out of dormancy at a lower temperature than agrostis stoloniferous (creeping bentgrass) which makes it more competitive in the early spring. With spring rains turfgrass growth increases rapidly. Heavy rates of N in the early spring contribute to rapid growth resulting in increased mowing. The growth enhances turf density and competition with weeds.


A costly money saver November 24, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 8:14 am

Sports fields have been around for centuries. Since the dawn of modern civilization, competition has existed and has always required adequate playing surfaces. Fast forward to modern times where numerous professional sports require professionally maintained playing surfaces. Take for instance baseball, rugby, golf, lacrosse, cricket, lawn bowling, and my personal favourite, football. I was always told that football is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport. The playing field certainly exemplifies that after each and every NFL football game. Thus, artificial turf was introduced to team owners as a revolutionary new way to save on stadium maintenance costs. The synthetic turf, commonly referred to as astroturf, was first introduced on a national stage when it was installed in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. It requires far less maintenance and has only a few slight drawbacks. It bakes anyone who dare stand on it in the heat, and is directly linked to several career ending injuries. Other than that, it seems fine to me.

The NFL is undergoing severe scrutiny due to released reports about retired players showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Repetitive blows to the head as one would see on any play from the line of scrimmage in the NFL is similar to what a veteran boxer would experience during their career. Amongst the ideas to promote a safer game is the examination of the helmet. However, there is no mention of the synthetic fields which are described as carpet on concrete. Not only does it lead to direct injuries such as turf toe, skin abrasions are extremely common.

I understand that the NFL is a business. Decisions are made to accentuate two things, income and championships. NFL team owner’s are opting for artificial turf fields because of reduced maintenance costs. The field can be used more often and generate more revenue. But at what cost? The players suffer prolonged injuries. Injuries that commonly nag them for the rest of their lives. It is a proven fact that professional football teams have more major knee injuries on artificial turf when compared to natural grass. It’s time the NFL takes a stand on this issue and eliminates synthetic fields for the benefit of its’ players.

synthetic field composition

*** Some quick facts about synthetic turf ***


Healthy Turfgrass November 23, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 9:28 am

There are six components required for healthy turfgrass. Air, water, light, soil, temperature, and traffic all have an affect on the health of your turf. Proper management is required in order to cope with the stresses your grass will have to the components.

Adequate air flow and irrigation are obvious essentials to healthy turf. Light and temperature are also extremely important. Soil and traffic are commonly overlooked when it comes to healthy playing surfaces. Good root zones (soil) allow for grass roots to penetrate deeply and evenly. This provides a more drought tolerant plant. It can access water more readily and have better access available nutrients. Thick, prospering turf will crowd out weeds and have better resistance to pests.

Concentrated foot and cart traffic is detrimental to turf. Good playing surfaces are comprised of proper site selection as well as proper construction and management. Although cultural practices are avaialbe to alleviate the compaction of soil due to traffic, proper routing of traffic is your best choice.

All of the components to healthy turfgrass are important. I feel that soil quality and its’ compaction that is traffic related is commonly overlooked. Of course when evaluating the surroundings of a playing surface you would consider what you can see: sunlight, amount of irrigation, air movement, and temperature. Commonly overlooked is what is going on underneath what we can see. Root zone quality is essential to the plant’s growth and nutrient supply. A lot of the products superintendents apply to their turf is easily leachable. This increases the importance of the turf’s root zones because of the amount of money being expended. When you increase the compaction you decrease the quality of your product. It begins to be detrimental to your property, and your career alike.

Foot Traffic Routing


We’re not turfgrass managers November 17, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 7:00 pm

The title Turfgrass manager couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to referencing golf course superintendents. Superintendents can no longer spray at will numerous magical solutions for common turfgrass diseases. Under compliance of Bill 64 golf course superintendents are expected to provide great playing conditions with fewer pesticides. An interesting investigation into Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles occurred in Farmingdale, N.Y at Bethpage Park. One of its’ 5 courses conducted a study in response to three management strategies:

· An unrestricted program that allowed the use of pesticides registered by EPA in New York State. For preventative control of: weeds, insects, and diseases.

· An IPM program based on the needs of individual putting greens. When pesticides were necessary, the least toxic and most effective products were chosen.

· A non-chemical program that used cultural and biological approaches to minimize pest damage on putting greens. No pesticides were used in the program.

Interestingly the IPM greens received 27% to 46% fewer pesticide applications than the unrestricted pest management greens. The putting greens maintained without pesticides were barely acceptable or did not provide acceptable playing quality for golf.

It is clear that golf courses cannot provide quality playing conditions without using pesticides. Quality playing conditions can be provided with reduced pesticide use if golfers are willing to tolerate imperfections. I feel the title Turfgrass manager is wildly inaccurate. A Turfgrass manager would never put the amount of stress that would require pesticide use on the plant as is done on a golf course. Golf course superintendents are playing surface managers and the enjoyment that comes from our product is at risk. Clearly the goal is an overall reduction of pesticide use on golf courses. But I feel the impact an outright pesticide ban would have on golf course playing conditions would be destructive to acres of picturesque beauty.


Guelph Turfgrass Management Students to host symposium: “Turf in Tough Times” November 6, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 8:04 am

Tt in t the class of 2011’s Turfgrass management program at the University of Guelph are hosting an educational symposium entitled: “Turf in tough times, doing more with less.” With the economic recession and the ever-looming pesticide ban those in the turf industry are feeling the heat. Through our first year of studies it has become quite clear that in order to excel in the future, our industry has to adapt to the present obstacles we face. Budgets are being slashed, positions are being terminated, and modern intellect is at a premium. The industry needs to be informed about innovative cultural practices and products that can assist those in the industry though these tough times.

This event is being held at the Cutten Club in Guelph, Ontario on November 27, 2009. It is open to anyone in the turfgrass industry with the desire to improve their business or facility. Our class has compiled three guest speakers to educate those in attendance on relevant issues. These speakers include: Dr. Tom Hsiang from the University of Guelph, Ron Schiedel of Green Horizons Sod, and Keith Bartlett of St. Georges Golf and Country Club. The speakers initiative’s are to help all in attendance ease into an adjustment period due to the changing times.

Personally, I feel this is an exciting opportunity for those who attend to connect with golf course superintendents, industry decision makers, university faculty, and future turfgrass leaders. It will be a great way to begin the development of my social network within the industry. For those who are looking for a local internship, this symposium will collect several industry professionals that can further benefit my career as a golf course superintendent.

Check out our symposium’s website


Post Bill 64: Affecting future golf course superintendents PART 1

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 8:00 am

Golf courses and turfgrass pests, weeds, and disease go hand in hand. The property is ideal for many associated problems that threaten the health of the turf; due to the stress that is placed on the turf and the level of fertility that is present. Constant mowing, traffic, irrigation and fertilizing equate to numerous issues a superintendent must deal with. The Ministry of Environment’s Bill 64 has turned the headache of pest management into a migraine with its’ strict pesticide use regulations.

early morning applicationAccording to the Ontario Allied Golf Association (OAGA) ” Bill 64 received Royal Assent in July 2008. The resulting Cosmetic Pesticide Ban allows golf courses to continue to use pesticides, but only if they comply with new stricter conditions. These conditions go into effect Earth Day April 22, 2009. ” There are now several steps golf courses must take in order to comply with Bill 64. Golf courses now must become IPM accredited. This involves a series of continuing education courses at the courses’ expense. Also, an annual report must be filed and made public to anyone who is interested. Key information in the report is:

 quantity in kilograms of each pesticide ingredient used;
 how this quantity may have varied from previous years;
 how being IPM Accredited has helped to reduce pesticide use and how will it reduce pesticide use going forward;
 a map of the golf course property showing all areas where pesticides have been applied;
 contact information for the club and registered IPM Agent

I feel the introduction of Bill 64 will inevitably lead to numerous golf course closures in Ontario. Superintendents fear it is not long before pesticide use is completely banned for golf course operations. Canada was the first country to introduce environmental guidelines for golf courses in 1993 and should be commended for being proactive. However, the quality of our product is at risk. Management styles would have to be changed drastically. Long gone would be the days of receptive greens and firm fairways. The turfgrass height of cut would have to be brought up in order to prevent the onset of disease due to a weakened plant (the lower the height of cut the more stressed the plant becomes). Greens speeds would slow to a crawl and the result would lead to Ontario never again hosting a professional tournament such as a PGA or LPGA event. Our product would not be comparable to the rest of the country, let alone the rest of the world.

The basics of Bill 64
Bill 64: In its’ entirety
Ontario Allied Golf Association
formation of dollarspotDollarSpot


To seed, or to sod? October 27, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 6:26 pm

When you need to re-establish turfgrass to a specific area on your course, one has to consider either seeding or sodding. Different troubled areas on your course (an area of a green that doesn’t grow well, or a steep bunker face that grass will not grown on) will require a vision to develop a solution. Factors to consider are: cost, timeframe of establishment, whereabouts on your course do you have the problem, and what kind of grass cultivar will you be using?

Seeding is less expensive but sodding takes less time. Seeding utilizes parent material as the root zone which makes the grass cultivar more likely to adapt to its surroundings. Sod is generally a flawless turf that is weed free and can be play ready in less than a week from installation. So which is the best option? Seeding offers flexibility on a golf course. Sod installation can be very problematic on undulating playing surfaces. Erosion will still occur underneath the sod because the sod comes from a different parent material.

I believe that when you seed an area it will develop stronger roots which equate to healthier turf. Upon germination the roots only have to survive in one type of soil. Sod will often die out a year or two following installation which leaves you right back to where you started. Dead grass is unacceptable by most owners and members. It should not occur under most circumstances on a professional course. An important factor in seeding is considering ideal climate and season the cultivar ideally grows in. Spring and fall is generally the most successful time of year.

Bert McCarty: Turfgrass Science , Clemson University Video

Sod Farmer talking about re-establishing soil after harvest


For Rent: Guelph Turfgrass management interns October 19, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 12:45 am

With the upcoming golf season quickly approaching, Guelph turfgrass management students are seeking summer internship positions as a requisite for graduation. As an aspiring golf course superintendent I will be seeking a full time (seasonal) position at a golf course where I can learn as much as possible in such a short period of time. From May 1st, to September 1st I plan to work at a facility that will allow me gain valuable experience in the workplace. Factors in a student’s destination such as mine are: daily commute, duties/responsibilities, rate of pay, and workplace atmosphere.

The purpose of an internship is to gain workplace experience relative to what graduates will experience on a daily basis in the real world. The superintendent will demonstrate what it takes to be a successful manager in the workplace on a daily basis. Interns will take their position very seriously as it is preparation for their future. Despite the work period being so limited( four months), this is an excellent opportunity for both interns and employers alike.

The most beneficial part of the internship, in my opinion, is the exchange of ideas present and future turfgrass managers can have. Turfgrass management is an evolving science and has been since its origin in the early 1800’s. Although it retains several cultural practices from its past, with the impending pesticide ban in Ontario innovative turfgrass practices are invaluable.  With the infusion of knowledge from an intern combined with the years of experience an industry professional has, taking on an intern can be a very beneficial experience.

If you are an experienced superintendent and would like to take on an intern this summer, feel free to contact me at

University of Guelph Turfgrass Management Program :

***Guelph Turfgrass Institue***

***My 2 year Diploma program***


Anticipating the semi-annual golf course superintendent’s average salary figures October 16, 2009

Filed under: DTM 1500 (Turf Communications) Semester One — Graham J. Wieja @ 8:32 pm

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA)  surveys  its members semi-annually on topics such as average salary, budget, experience and other important topics.  This is done to get a better grasp on understanding those individuals that work within the industry. The focus of the GCSAA in this survey delves into aspects such as years of experience, the number of employees they manage, budget size, and future aspirations.

According to the GCSAA report “In 2007, half of all superintendents earn $66,000 or more annually, 25 percent of all superintendents earn more than $87,550, and the top 10 percent earn $115,000 or more annually.” The survey divides superintendent’s budgets into several aspects like maintenance, capital, water, and payroll. On average superintendent’s manage an all inclusive budget of $750,000 annually.

4,078 superintendents participated in the 2007 survey. The numbers for 2009 have not yet been released but I eagerly await them. As an aspiring superintendent the most interesting aspect of the survey is the constant rise in average salaries. From 2005 to 2007 the average base salary rose over seven percent and had a 47.9 percent increase since 1995. The need for qualified turfgrass managers is not surprising to me. An aging core of golf course superintendents and sports field managers has led way to an infusion of young prospects. Although at the current moment in time we lack the invaluable workplace experience that most in the industry can boast 15 plus years, future turfgrass managers are as educated as anyone in the industry. The new generation of superintendents is as skilled and committed as ever. It’s no surprise we are being compensated adequately for it.

***Source from GCSAA website***