Winter injury on golf turf is often related to moisture. Managing moisture by applying surfactants later in the season has become a trend in the industry, as superintendents try to optimize winter health and improve recovery in the spring.
Winter temperatures and extremely dry winds can lead to desiccation of the turf. Water in the turf root zone is often lost at a much faster rate than it is replaced, leading to winter injury and slow or delayed spring green up. A late-season application of a surfactant positively influences moisture conditions in the root zone which helps to minimize winter-related problems.
In the North, where irrigation systems are winterized, the strategy has been to use a surfactant just before the irrigation system is blown out. The goal of this application is to improve moisture availability in the soil throughout the winter months and into the spring. For those in the South, on the other hand, wetting agents are regularly employed throughout the winter months to improve soil moisture conditions during a time of year when warm season grasses are in transition, dormant or very slow growing.
Back to the Basics
Localized dry spots are irregularly shaped areas of turf brown turf that result when soil does not allow moisture to penetrate and/or hold moisture from irrigation or rainfall. This is a major issue on putting greens and other fine turf areas where uniform distribution of moisture throughout the root zone is required for playability of an intensely managed turf surface.
This is where wetting agents come into play. Wetting agents are surfactants – a group of chemical compounds that positively impact the surface tension of liquids. Throughout the winter, they can keep maintenance programs ahead of schedule, reducing the surface tension of water by lowering its cohesive properties and allowing water to enter an otherwise hydrophobic soil.
When used during colder months, one of the goals in applying surfactants is to improve water movement, particularly infiltration and downward penetration. When applied in late fall, a surfactant reduces hydrophobic conditions, guarding against winter desiccation and improving green up.
“We are finding that many superintendents see the benefits of using wetting agents during the winter,” says Lee Schaber, Agronomic Services Manager for Aquatrols. “It focuses their attention on year-round water management, which assists in fine surface enhancement.”
Research has shown that deploying permeable putting green covers is one of the most effective methods to minimize the effects of extreme low temperatures. Combining wetting agents with covers is an ideal one-two punch to decrease the negative effects of dry conditions and low temperatures on putting greens, providing superintendents with a potential insurance policy against winter desiccation.
Revolution vs. Aqueduct Flex
There’s no question that winter can be hard on fine turf. As you prepare for the start of the season, you may need to repair damage done by hard winter conditions. Revolution and Aqueduct Flex, two products from the Aquatrols portfolio, are two that superintendents find particularly helpful in getting their turf back up to speed.
Regardless if your winter season is wet or dry, implementing a high-quality surfactant program can help tremendously. Revolution helps the optimization of air-to-water ratios in the root zone for a better growing environment and healthier turf, and is most effective when applied early in the season. In wetter conditions, Revolution promotes the movement of excess water off the surface and through the soil profile. Coming out of a drier winter, Revolution ensures that early precipitation will get into the root zone so your turf gets the uniform moisture it needs.
“Revolution is the only wetting agent on the market that goes beyond water repellency issues,” says Schaber. “When golf courses utilize it after a long winter, we see positive results in the reduction of stress on turf health and promotion of a faster recovery from winter injury.”
Aqueduct Flex granular provides fast, safe relief to areas of stressed turf, with visible results in as little as three days. When applied monthly at the prevention rate, it also provides up to 30-day protection against the development of localized dry spot and is safe to use from tee to green.
“When staffs are looking for a quick fix, Aqueduct Flex is their answer,” Schaber. “It is specifically designed to give turf care professionals superior performance with flexible options for dealing with stressful conditions, including localized dry spots.”
Whether you are managing cool or warm season turf, continuing surfactant use through the final months of your maintenance program can be extremely beneficial in managing moisture in the root zone. Reducing winter injury, improving spring green up and managing transition are all positively affected when using surfactants late in the season.