Golf Course Management

JAN 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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120 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.19 Readers of this column can probably draw the "plant disease triangle" or, at the very least, recall learning about it in pathology class. As a reminder, the plant disease triangle is an illus - tration that helps students visualize the factors necessary for a disease outbreak. e words "susceptible host," "pathogen" and "conducive environment" are often placed on an angle tip or are written on each outer side of the triangle. e word "disease" often appears inside the triangle. e purpose of the triangle is to remind us that all three condi - tions must be met to produce a certain disease. is implies that breaking — or managing — one of the three components will prevent or minimize a disease outbreak. University and industry research studies all three components of the triangle. Focusing on the pathogen results in an improved under - standing of the organism and chemical con- trol research trials. Research that focuses on the susceptible host includes turfgrass breed - ing efforts. Examples of this work are breed- ing a warm-season Paspalum vaginatum culti- var that can tolerate salty irrigation water, and the development of Flagstick, a creeping bent - grass cultivar that shows superior dollar spot resistance. Examples of cultural and chemi - cal methods include any practice or product that minimizes Poa annua (annual bluegrass) encroachment into the desired crop, because annual bluegrass is susceptible to numerous diseases and often does not survive under ice cover. Cultural and mechanical practices are often used to manipulate a conducive en - vironment. Examples include using fans in stagnant areas or cutting down trees to mini - mize shade. More complicated efforts con- firmed by research include frequent rolling, which increases beneficial soil bacterial pop - ulations that decrease several turfgrass dis- eases. While attending a conference in Slove - nia last month, I was delighted and amused to watch Michael Fidanza, Ph.D., from Penn State present a plant disease triangle that he turned into a pyramid by adding depth and labeling it "time." His change reminded me that patience is a virtue, improvements take time, and the quest for improvements is a never-ending process. at thought led me to imagine another triangle, which I call the "success triangle." e success triangle begins with the golfer/ greenkeeper (golf course superintendent). Why? Because golf dates back to 1574, and for 325 years after that, golfers were the green - keepers who improved golfing equipment and drove demand for improved playing condi - tions. e industry is the second side of the suc - cess triangle. One of the industry's first major contributions to golf course maintenance was the first gasoline-powered mower, which de - buted in 1902. Since that time, the industry has given us core cultivators, machines that shovel sand, improved fertilizers and chemi - cals, gauges that measure soil moisture, and so on. Research is the third side of the success tri - angle, and golf course research was initiated about a century ago by the USGA. Success - ful superintendents rely on valid research that continues to be led by the USGA and funded by GCSAA and the industry. e golf indus - try also supports conferences and golf tour- naments that raise funds for scholarships, research and charities such as the Wee One Foundation. If I were to copy Mike Fidanza and add depth to my success triangle, I would add the label "communication." Stay on guard, as nu - merous sources of information sell opinion and observations as if they were substanti - ated with data, but they are not. Even worse are the shameless companies that will use an - other company's data to verify their product. ese companies are not true supporters of the success triangle. Reliable sources of informa - tion include the USGA, GCSAA and the data presented by researchers in articles and at con - ferences. When meeting with the sales profes- sionals in our industry, remember to respect- fully say, "Show me the data." Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D., the "Doctor of Green Speed," is the turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. Show me the data Successful superintendents rely on valid research that continues to be led by the USGA and funded by GCSAA and the industry. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. nikolait@msu.edu (up to speed)

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