Golf Course Management

JAN 2018

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

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104 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.18 In the September 2014 Up to Speed col- umn, I interviewed three golf course super- intendents who regularly rolled their fair- ways. All of them had taken up the practice, in part, because research had concluded that frequent lightweight rolling on putting greens decreased the severity of the turfgrass disease dollar spot. At that time, research on fairway rolling was limited, but fortunately, several studies on the topic have been performed since that column ran. Here, I will consider results from those studies to help shed light on the practice, and to assist turf managers in making better-informed management de - cisions regarding fairway rolling. In 2011, a three-year fairway-rolling study was initiated by Thomas Green, M.S., at Michigan State University (MSU). Over the course of the study, fairway rolling rarely re - sulted in significantly lower levels of dollar spot disease. What is pertinent, however, is that Green used a lightweight roller manufac - tured for use on a putting green to perform his fairway-rolling study. This is important because of the obvious differences between putting greens and fairways — most nota - bly, fairways are mowed at a higher height of cut and have more organic matter buildup. Green concluded that using a heavier roller with greater pressure (pounds/square inch) might achieve the same benefits on a fairway as a lightweight roller does on a putting sur - face. This hypothesis seems sound when we recognize that Paul Giordano, Ph.D., corre - lated decreases in dollar spot on the putting surface with changes in microbial popula - tions in 2010. Given that backdrop, let's consider re - search by Jay Popko, M.S., and Geunhwa Jung, Ph.D., of the University of Massa - chusetts Amherst. They performed 18 fair- way-rolling studies over three years, using the Smithco Ultra 10 fairway roller and the Tru-Turf FR-108 unit. Significant dollar spot reduction, ranging from 20% to 60%, oc - curred in 15 of the 18 trials. Furthermore, Popko observed that trials initiated earlier in the growing season led to greater dollar spot reduction. Other benefits recorded from their research included quicker spring green-up, re - duced clipping yields and reduced puffiness on creeping bentgrass fairways. It is notewor- thy that the 100-gallon tank on the Smithco roller was empty during the experiments. Would greater reductions in dollar spot have resulted if the tank had been filled? In 2017, a fairway-rolling study was per - formed at MSU with a Smithco Ultra 15 fair- way roller. The roller's 150-gallon tank was filled with water (adding 1,112 pounds) to maximize the pressure on the fairway stand. Treatments for fairways in the study included no rolling, rolling twice per week, and rolling three times per week; all of these treatments were mowed three times per week. A fourth treatment was mowed only twice each week and rolled three times per week. The most interesting results from the first year of the study include: • Rolling decreased the amount of clippings even on the fairways that were mowed less frequently. • All rolled plots resulted in firmer fairway surfaces, which indicates that frequent fair - way rolling may result in longer ball roll. • As in the UMass study, the fairways had reduced puffiness and, in my opinion, looked healthier. Unfortunately, the MSU site experienced no disease pressure in the summer of 2017. The fairway-rolling studies reviewed here substantiate the observations of the superin - tendents I interviewed back in 2014: Dollar spot is decreased, and lower clipping yields mean less need to mow. As fairway-rolling studies move forward, it is important to test the effect of roller weight (pounds/square inch) on dollar spot suppression. I can as - sure you that MSU will be performing such a study in 2018. Until then, we'll just have to wait to determine the significance of fairway roller weight on disease reduction. 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. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. nikolait@msu.edu Weighing in on fairway rolling Using a heavier roller with greater pressure might achieve the same benefits on a fairway as a lightweight roller does on a putting surface. (up to speed)

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