Monday, April 23, 2012

What Can You Learn from 16 sq. ft.?

One of the best things about my job is the educational opportunities that are available on a daily basis.  Whether it comes in the form of a classroom, monthly superintendent meetings, discussions with fellow peers via Social Media or something as simple as throwing a sheet of plywood on the ground, there is always something to be learned everyday. You'd be surprised at how much info you can obtain from a simple 4'x4' square (16 sq. ft.) of plywood. 

During my 6 years here, I have been closely monitoring our applications of fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides to ensure that they are necessary, timely and that we are achieving the desired results. With a struggling economy and the costs of these products continuing to escalate, it is imperative that each application not only work, but it needs to be justifiable.  One of the ways I have been monitoring the performance of the products that we use is through the use of the aforementioned sheet of plywood. 

Portable 4'x4' sheet for easy transport
There isn't anything tricky about how to use the plywood.  Simply place it in an area that is being treated (usually on one of our green or fairway nurseries) and make the application.  The purpose of the plywood is to shield the chosen section of turf from the application so that it can serve as a "check plot" against the treated area.  After the application is made, remove the plywood and wait. Over a period of time, the hope is that there is a noticeable difference between the treated area and check-plot.  If there isn't a difference, you could make the argument that the application wasn't necessary or the timing was inaccurate.  You could also make the argument that the product didn't work, but in my experience that usually isn't the case, but it has happened here.
Unfolded plywood on green nursery
The best example of the use of check plots here at Elcona happens every spring.  Everyone is aware that our greens are mostly comprised of poa Annua (Annual Bluegrass) and that it is a prolific seeder in the spring.  Hopefully you are also aware that we make 2-3 applications of growth regulators to help suppress the formation of the seedheads. It is never expected that we will achieve full suppression of the seedheads, but the hope is to reduce them by 50-60%.  How can we tell?  You guessed it...a check plot.  The photos below show you quite clearly where the plywood was placed and it should be obvious that there are significantly more seedheads in the check plot vs. the treated area.  Imagine how the greens would putt if we didn't make these applications!  As we expected, the application has been successful and certainly more than justifiable.

Check Plot on #1 green. White square caused by excessive
seeding within the check plot.

Check Plot on #10 green.  Software used to add yellow
tone to make the seedheads more visible.

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