Scouting Report: April 23rd

Freshly cut Kentucky bluegrass at Geneva Golf Club. Courtesy E. Braunsky

The scent of recently mown turfgrass filled the air this week. Roughs and fairways are growing vigorously and many golf courses are trying to catch-up. The bluegrasses maintained at Geneva Golf Club were striping up nicely this week.

Other grasses may not be cutting as easily. Perennial ryegrass and tall fescue are two excellent grasses. However, they do require sharpened blades for a premium cut.

Shearing of tall fescue leaf blades with a dull rotary mower.

Tall fescue is becoming increasingly popular in the area. I see a lot of it being maintained in rough areas and along bunker faces. It’s more drought and heat tolerant compared to other grasses grown in the area. Another bonus of establishing tall fescue is rapid germination.

Tall fescue germinated in 7 days in SW Chicago this spring.

Further south, some of our warm-season grasses are coming to life.

‘Meyer’ Zoysia japonica in south-central Illinois. Courtesy A. Decker.

We don’t have many golf courses in Illinois that maintain large acres of zoysiagrass. However, it is well adapted to grow in the southern portions of the state. Many golfers enjoy zoysiagrass fairways for how well the ball sits on the canopy.

The zoysiagrasses that we see most frequently in the state are the Zoysia japonica’s. As the species name suggests, this turf originated in the pacific rim countries. Zoysia matrella (a close relative) has a finer leaf texture than japonica and is occasionally used as a putting green surface. However, Zoysia matrella is not nearly as cold tolerant.

Zoysia matrella that is maintained at 2.0 inches. Yep..that isn’t a typo.

The CDGA turf program is currently participating in a collaborative zoysiagrass project with several other researchers. The scope of this project is to evaluate which zoysiagrass cultivars grow best in this region. This project was initiated by Dr. Nangle and is one that I am looking forward to work on.

Spring is well on its way this year. Many trees are leafing out and many other flowering plants are blooming.

Most areas in the Midwest leafed out 1–3 weeks early this spring.

Many areas enjoyed temperatures in the 70’s this week. Although, some courses near the lake were much colder. This past Wednesday was a perfect example of the temperature gradient between those close to the lake compared to those more inland.

Snapshot of temperatures on Wednesday afternoon (April 19th) in Illinois. Courtesy Pivotal Weather

Looking ahead, next week should be seasonable with a couple of warm and cool days mixed in. Something I have learned since moving to the Midwest is that the extended-day temperature forecast means very little here.

For example, two weather models (the GFS & CFS) are each predicting vastly different temperature extremes for next weekend. Each model was initialized at the same time and represent the same hour forecast.

Forecasted temperature anomaly. Bold prediction here: It’s going to warm, cold, or seasonable by next weekend.

Obviously, the weather isn’t something we can control. We can, however, manage the playing surfaces the best we can so the turf can tolerate environmental stressors. Many areas (north shore excluding) are entering the sweet spot for growth. Now is the time to build up the plant‘s’ health so that it can better handle summer stress.

I have learned that spring is a very short season up on the north shore. This is due, in part, by relatively cold surface waters from lake Michigan that moderate the air. Not only is the air affected, but microbial activity in the soil is much slower in these areas right now.

This week I observed some familiar and unfamiliar pest occurrences. However, we will lead off with a management practice that is becoming more and more popular.

Fairway rolling

Example of a roller attachment that could be used for fairways. Courtesy N. Marfise.

Rolling isn’t a new concept for golf course maintenance. On golf greens, rolling helps support fewer mowings. Alternating mowing and rolling on greens has become a staple for managing summer stress. Rolling helps smooth the surface, eliminates dew, and helps maintain putting green speeds.

Many of these benefits may also extend to fairway rolling. More and more superintendents are testing and purchasing fairway rollers that fit their management program.

Alternating fairway mowing with rolling could save considerable time and help reduce wear on fairway units. Rolling fairways can take as little as 3.5 hours at some 18 hole facilities. However, most of the research on rolling has been done on putting greens, not fairways.

We are still gaining a better understanding on the benefits of fairway rolling. How much rolling is too much rolling? That will probably depend on many factors including foot and cart traffic, soil structure, and grass type. The CDGA turf program is looking to conduct an onsite experiment with fairway rolling. Please contact us ( if your course is now rolling fairways and would like to participate in a research project.

Insects are out and about

Lots of insect activity has been reported this week. For instance, pictured below is a seedcorn beetle larva. These do not directly feed on turfgrass but can still be a nuisance when they burrow up and down the profile looking for other insects to eat. This creates mounds on the surface that can disrupt playability.

Seedcorn beetle larva spotted this week north of Chicago. Courtesy D. Dinelli

BTA beetles (black turfgrass ataenius) have also been spotted just south of Chicago this week (courtesy T. White). A good way to scout for these adults is to check your mowing baskets. These beetles begin to lay eggs in late April through early May in most years. The grubs can cause damage to cool-season roughs, fairways, and greens.

Another insect I have seen this week are sand wasps. These solitary wasps have found a home in select bunkers. Some bunkers had more than 100 of these mounds in them. The wasps, and associated mounds, are much smaller than the cicada killer wasps which won’t emerge until another month or two.

Sand wasps were evident in bunkers on a golf course west of Chicago.

These sand wasps (although numerous), were very docile around me. The lens of my camera just about knocked over their mounds. Sand wasps are beneficial as they munch on mosquitoes and other insects.

It’s important to note that (to my knowledge) there are no selective insecticides than can control these wasps without harming honey bee populations. So control of these wasps, if warranted, may involve more a gorilla warfare approach than a spray. (FYI, I know of a superintendent in Tennessee that has tactical experience in this area).

Another option is to construct alternative housing for them as a way for them to relocate. In any case, communication with the golfers and membership about these issues should be at the forefront of your management approach.


Both grassy and broadleaf weeds were noticeable this week. The most obvious weeds this week were the yellow blooms of dandelion and the purple flowers of ground ivy.

It was hard not to see dandelions this week.

Dandelions are best controlled in the fall months with 2,4-D. However, if control in the spring is needed, applications of of florasulam may work.

Ground ivy grows best in shaded areas.

Ground ivy (syn. creeping charlie) is more difficult to control. However, applications of herbicides such as fluroxypyr and triclopyr may provide acceptable control.

A grassy weed that I observed this week is crabgrass. This crabgrass (now in the 1 or 2 leaf stage) has emerged in an indicator area next to a cart path in SW Chicago. However, I have not seen crabgrass germination in any other grassy area in the northern portion of the state.

Crabgrass emergence was observed in SW Chicago this week near a cart path.

An excellent new resource for weed identification and control is the 2017 edition: Turfgrass Weed Control for Professionals. This is spearheaded by Dr. Aaron Patton from Purdue with collaborators from many universities in the great lakes region including the University of Illinois.

2017 Edition of Turfgrass Weed Control for Professionals is available for purchase.


Not many surprises this week with disease activity. Dollar spot in south-central Illinois. Red thread in the Bloomington area. Yellow patch or brown ring patch was observed in the Chicago area. The start/stop rhythm of pink snow mold is continuing in more northern areas.

I have seen the first flush of mushrooms that broke through the mulch layer at the Midwest Golf House. This is at least an indication that fungal mycelium is moving around in the soil column.

First sighting of mushrooms at the Midwest Golf House this week.

These mushrooms most likely took advantage of the moist conditions that we have experienced over the past 2–3 weeks. Another organism that has taken advantage of wet weather has been algae.

Algae has been taking advantage of the rainy weather the past 2–3 weeks.

Algae can be suppressed by light and frequent sand-topdressing and improving surface drainage. Sometimes grooming or verticutting can help break up an algae crust area. Additionally, some fungicides (mostly contacts; chlorothalonil and mancozeb for example), are labelled to suppress algae.

Daconil Ultrex was applied two days before a rain event.

Moving forward, I expect to see some more dollar spot development in the southern and central portions of the state. Those further north should scout their annual bluegrass to first detect dollar spot. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see some some leaf spotting diseases occurring on older varieties of Kentucky bluegrass.

Lastly, on a research note, I’d like to thank the Illinois Turfgrass Foundation for their support in replacing our autoclave.

New autoclave to help sterilize fungal media.

We have replaced our older autoclave (circa 1986) with a brand new unit. The older autoclave has served Drs. Kane, Settle, and Nangle well over the years. However, electrical problems with the heating element ended its 30+ year run.

Twitter: CDGATurfgrassProgram


Phone: 630–685–2307



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Dedicated researchers and turf pathologists working for golf course superintendents in the Chicago area.