Golf Course Management

FEB 2014

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

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02.14 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 85 plant and animal populations and give them a competitive advantage over invasive, fre-sen - sitive species, such as buckthorn and honey- suckle. We burn in the spring, which kills the top growth of the woody plants that encroach into naturalized areas and eliminates accumu - lated leaves and dead plant material. Burn- ing at this time, before the grass has begun to green up, also allows the charred, blackened soil surface to quickly absorb solar radiation and will raise soil temperatures faster than sur - rounding turf areas. The weeks after burning are also a nice time to use a selective herbicide to eliminate broadleaf weeds from these areas, as the tender, green shoots of the weeds will be easily identifed against the darkened surface. It is also a great time to sow some native grass seed. Native grasses usually have a bunch-type growth habit, like ryegrass, instead of forming a dense turf, like fescues. Although the long native grass may look impenetrable, the tops of the plant can be moved aside to see all the way to the soil. This allows a golfer to more easily fnd a stray ball. Preparations for burning It is not advisable or safe to conduct a burn without some preparation. With the help of the city of Ann Arbor's Natural Areas Pres - ervation (NAP) unit, we have developed a burn plan for the golf course. This details what areas we would like to burn, what envi - ronmental conditions must be present, access for emergency vehicles, supplemental water supplies (irrigation hoses, ponds, streams or hydrants) as well as phone numbers for emer - gency contacts (fre marshal, emergency dis- patch, hospital, etc.), the location of the burn (both major intersections and GPS coordi - nates) and any nearby sensitive areas (schools, residences or roads). Our burn plan also in - cludes a map of the area that details each area to be burned, a contingency plan if the burn does not go as predicted and requirements for containment of the site after the burn is completed. In general, this mop-up plan states that the burn is not completed until it is made safe and there is no more smoke coming from the area. If something is smoking, that means there is still heat being generated and there is a risk of the fre starting up again. Environmental conditions also factor heav - ily into our burn plan, as they affect how well a natural area will burn. The grass might not burn if it has started to green up and, if you are able to get it lit, you will have a hard time keeping a fre going. If you are able to burn, it will create a lot more smoke because the cooler fre will not fully combust the plant material. The relative humidity should be between 20 percent and 50 percent. The best burning days tend to start off cold and the temperature rises 20-30 degrees by the afternoon. The skies are clear and the winds are light. We look for a day with wind speeds between 5 and 20 mph. While it might seem like a calm day would be best, a soft breeze from a predictable direc - tion is actually safer because you can predict where the fre line will go. Anything above 20 mph is an obvious risk. Another consideration is wind direction, as the smoke can be a nui - sance downwind. If the smoke blows across a road, visibility of drivers can be impaired and while some people may fnd the smell objec - tionable, it can cause a medical emergency for an asthmatic. We always make sure that we have ade - quate burn breaks to ensure that the fre will not escape from the target area. These breaks completely surround the area and consist of strips of non-combustible material that are at least twice as wide as the likely fame height. In grassy, prairie areas, the fames are unlikely to get above 2 or 3 feet high, so a strip of at least 6 feet should suffce. Bare soil is the best burn break and can be achieved in a forest area by using a leaf blower to remove leaves and other detritus from the forest foor. Luck - ily, turfgrass areas mowed at typical rough heights also meet this description and are thus 084-091_Feb14_Burn.indd 85 1/17/14 11:46 AM

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