Fine Turgrass Management

Fine Turgrass Management

Steve Cook, CGCS, MG - Director of Agronomy

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Man's Best Friend - by Shane Lohman, Turfgrass Intern

Man’s Best Friend

For ages the term “Man’s Best Friend” has always been a furry four legged, tail wagging bundle of joy otherwise known Canis lupus familiaris or a domestic dog. This is not the case for a golf course superintendent. The item I’m referring to as “Man’s Best Friend” is called a soil probe. Every superintendent has one with them 90 percent of the time and will not venture on the course without one.

Throughout the summer I have been asked numerous questions about this item in particular and the information gathered by its use.

 “What does that tool do?”
“What does it test for?”
“What are you looking for?”

The basic definition of a soil probe is a tool used to remove a deep core from turf areas to examine root development, thatch depth, soil arrangement and soil moisture.

Some consider checking your soil profile an art form. You have to use your senses of sight, touch, and smell. (Yes even smell; Anaerobic is a term used to describe a soil that is deficient in oxygen; saturated due to poor drainage. Oxygen is imperative for healthy greens by promoting beneficial microbial activity and decomposing organic matter. Insufficient oxygen begins a downward spiral of problems that does not end well. These soils will have a very foul smell associated with them.)

While evaluating your soil probe plug general questions are asked: does the soil form a “ribbon” between the fingers or does it crumble or fall away? This gives us the information of moisture content in the underlying turf - if it ribbons it means it’s holding moisture; if the soil breaks away or crumbles, the turf is dry.

During the summer, soil moisture is the most important aspect of the keeping healthy turf that maintains consistent playability. This is very hard to tell if you don’t look at the underlining soil to identify the amount of water present. The rule is to keep the turf as dry as possible because it is much easier to add water then to take water away. And too much water can lead to higher disease pressure and maybe turf loss.

Soil probes allow the superintendent to keep adequate moisture levels and to allow more efficient watering, better playing conditions, and healthier turf.

Shane Lohman
Iowa State University
Turfgrass Management

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