Transition Zone Bermudagrass: “Out of Gas” This Spring??

Mother Nature has reminded us this spring that the seasonal “average” weather isn’t always what she decides to provide us. For most of the spring, especially through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, the up and down temperatures have stressed even cool season turfgrass. After a warmer winter period and above normal temperatures in March that encouraged spring green… prolonged periods of overcast, cold and damp followed. Cool season is stressed, but bermudagrass is REALLY confused. Bermuda in many situations is acting like it just “out of gas” to be able to regenerate or transition out from ryegrass overseeding.

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Green Bermudagrass Under Grow Covers in Feb, In Washington, DC

But we are seeing some very different bermudagrass results with regeneration and/or transition. Some bermudagrass fields are fighting back strong now that we are into May, yet some continue to face challenges. But why? Temperatures across through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic came up early to support bermudagrass to pull out of dormancy early. Shouldn’t it be growing actively by now, even with the cool and overcast?

Literally, it really is just “Out of Gas”!!!

The lack of full dormancy and early spring green up, things we thought were good, are actually what is leading to the bermudagrass being “out of gas”. It can even be worse on bermudagrass that was kept under grow covers most of the winter. The covers provided temperatures for the bermuda to continue to grow. But we now are understanding that temperature alone is not enough. The importance of light for photosynthesis in bermudagrass has been overlooked. The short days w/ a low sun angle through the fall, winter and spring have a bigger impact on bermudagrass growth than we have ever realized.

Light Requirement For Bermudagrass: Bermudagrass requires more than for cool season. On average, bermudagrass varieties requires around 35 mol/ day of light for photosynthesis to produce the required energy for normal plant processes. In Raleigh-Durham, North Carloina in full sun (no winter damaged tissue or ryegrass overseeding producing shade), the sun provides (See chart below for entire year):

Fall:       Sept 10 to Oct 8 average: 39.5 mols/ day
               Oct 8 to Nov. 5 average: 28.1 mols/ day
               Nov 5 to Dec 3 average: 19.9 mols/ day
Winter: Dec 3 to Dec 31 average: 19.3 mols/ day
               Jan 1 to Jan 29 average: 19.3 mols/ day
               Jan 29 to Feb 26 average: 26.8 mols/ day
              Feb 26 to March 26 average: 33.4 mols/ day 
Spring: March 26 to April 23 average : 46.3 mols/ day   (FINALLY above 35 Mol/day!)
              April 23 to May 21 average: 48.2 mols/day

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Par Light Average In Mol/day In Raleigh-Durham, NC (www.SGLConcept.com)

From mid October until the first of April, even in full sun, photosynthesis can not produce enough energy to support regular bermudagrass plant growth. Thats over 5 MONTHS! For bermudagrass further north in somewhere like Kansas City, the light required for healthy growth would lack for nearly 6 months. Newer varieties of bermudagrass like Latitude36 and Celebration require less light than the 35 mols/ day, so we see them sustain growth later in the fall and earlier in the spring. But overall, the light for photosynthesis just isn’t there.

So what? Why does this matter to bermudagrass?  When Mother Nature provides warmer temperatures, or when we manipulate the growing environment with grow tarps, bermudagrass grass sustains green and produces growth. But because photosynthesis isn’t producing energy to keep up with that growth, late season or early spring growth, the energy reserves of the bermudagrass are burned up and the plant goes into stress and starvation mode. Some fields we have this spring have actually went dormant when they were green in January and February. Or fields that were growing in March have slowed now even into May because of the continual overcast, cloudy and wet conditions.

Now that we understand the cause, for the short term, how do we find a solution? Follow we want to share what seems to be some of the pillars of the strong bermudagrass regeneration and transition:

Get light to the bermudagrass plants: We have established the problem of the lack of light and the need for energy production. Step 1… get light to the plants! This means:

a. Lower mowing height and increasing mowing frequency. Especially on a bermudagrass field that is overseeded. In non-overseeded, mowing low (down to 1/2” if possible) will help clean out all the dead or winter damaged tissue and promote green bermudagrass to push up through.

b. Clean out/ Open up the canopy to get sun down through. Something as simple as brushing or dragging with a steel drag can open up the canopy. Verticutting, core aeration, or Universe Fraze Mowing can clean out and open up the canopy as well. Avoid topdressing with more than 1/8” of material… we want to promote light to the plants, not increase the barrier.

c. Supplement support for energy production from bio-stimulant products: Technology in plant feeding products allows us to provide the stressed bermudagrass with the amino acids and sugars that it needs to support photosynthesis for energy. A range of patented, scientifically engineered products existing to do this so all the stress isn’t on the plant and photosynthesis. Key, patented products were are recommending for stress relief and photosynthetic support include a combination from Floratine Products Group:

  • Protesyn: Formulation of amino acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. Equate Protesyn to a sports drink and/or some liquid sunshine. Helps with lack of energy and stress!
  • Knife Plus: Micronutrient product combined with a hormone loading for support of plant systems. The micronutrients cover the range for the essential building blocks for photosynthesis
  • 5.0 Cal: Blend of calcium and simple and complex carbohydrates to support the turfgrass plant during stress periods. The calcium and sugars mirror what is produced during photosynthesis.

The fields we are seeing in the strongest condition are receiving supplemental bio-stimulant applications to support energy production. Simply… The applications are supporting plant processes to keep the plant from running out of gas!!

d. Avoiding N to drive growth, Instead using hormones to push natural, healthy growth: With getting sunlight to the plants and reducing plant stress by using plant feeding technology, its time to push the bermudagrass to start to grow and recover. Go go go! But another theme of the best fields we are seeing currently are NOT turning to just nitrogen to push growth. Historically, spring time growth and bermudagrass fill in comes from simple applications of 46-0-0 and 21-0-0. But we now know that excessive nitrogen drives unhealthy growth and burns up energy reserves. Yes, we just built up our energy reserves! Lets not burn through them already. Instead, for a granular fertilizer, turn to an organic product to feed soil microbes or a Poly coated product such as Polyon to give you control of release. Then turning to a hormone package to increase cell division and drive healthy, natural growth at this point in time. Temperatures, soil and air, continue to be low. Even if you are set on using N for your re-grow, its too cold for bermudagrass to metabolize N in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Hormones, in combination with the energy support we discussed previous, really is the best ticket to get strong re-generation and transition through ryegrass in this stressful time.

Recommendations on products? We recommend our clients turn again to Floratine Products Group for some of their patented bio-stimulant products:

  • High 5: Warm-season grass specific nutrient product with hormones and micronutrients
  • Per4Max: Hormone and nutrient product designed specifically to increase GA production to promote cell division for bermudagrass to spread rapidly
    – With that combination, a potassium phosphite product also is helpful to support energy production along with .05 lbs/ of true foliar N in the spray.

De-compacted the soil!! De-compacting soil is the #1 key cultural key in the successful bermudagrass regeneration and transitions observed this spring. Wet soils compact more quickly from play than dry soil. These consistent wet conditions have led to some extreme compaction conditions. Those compacted soils need opened to:
Allows air into the soil profile, promoting both soil microbes and bermudagrass roots. The soil air and microbial activity on a de-compacted soil are essential for support growth
Allows water to move down through the soil profile faster. The water moving through reduces rain cancellations. It also allows air to come back into the soil faster. Where there is water, there is no air. Once the water can move through and air is back into the soil, both soil microbes and the bermuda roots can be stronger.

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Air2G2 Decompacting Football Sidelines with NO Disruption

Ultimately, the lessons of a challenging spring here in 2016 will help us avoid the same challenges in the years ahead. Because of the mild winter through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, it was assumed that the spring and summer would be much easier with winter kill totally avoided. But the damage done from semi-dormant bermudagrass attempting to grow when it is typically dormant may cause just as many challenges as winter kill could. But overall, with as aggressive as bermudagrass can be, as soon as you are able to 1) get light to the plant and 2) supplement to support energy production, the plants will recover and begin to grow. Then at that point you can 3) push healthy, strong growth with hormones and utilize slow release N to support the growth process.

And remembering the key, none of it works at all on a compacted soil! Fields need to be used, we just have to respond in new and different ways to support them. Even when Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate.

Keep up the great work, and share your examples of success with us if you are having them! Cheers to #GrassCanTakeMore™!!!

JM


Copyright © 2016 Growing Innovations, LLC All Rights Reserved.  

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Eight benefits of natural grass: From Lawn & Landscape Magazine

From Lawn & Landscape Magazine on April 8, 2016:     Eight benefits of natural grass

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After celebrating Earth Day just a few days ago, we return to the subject of environmental protection and improvement by looking at the benefits of natural grass.  

By: Jerad R Minnick

Turfgrass can be found on lawns, athletic fields, golf courses, parks, roadsides and many other natural and recreational areas. It accounts for over 50 million acres of maintained, irrigated natural grass in the U.S. alone. Ongoing research continues to uncover previously unidentified environmental, economic, health and safety benefits of natural turfgrass.

Below are eight benefits of natural grass:

1. Air quality
Turfgrass is a living organism. Each plant takes in carbon dioxide and converts it into simple sugars to use as food through the process of photosynthesis. As a byproduct of photosynthesis, oxygen is released into the atmosphere.
A turfgrass area measuring 2,500 square feet produces enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe. An average sized healthy lawn can capture as much as 300 pounds of carbon per year and a golf course fairway can capture 1,500 pounds per year. One soccer field can offset the carbon produced by a car driving 3,000 miles.

Because of this, Dr. Thomas Watschke of Penn State University states in “The Environmental Benefits of Turfgrass and Their Impact on the Greenhouse Effect” that “the strategic use of turfgrass is the most sensible and economically feasible approach to countering the greenhouse effect in urban areas.”

In addition to reducing carbon dioxide, turfgrass traps an estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt released annually into the atmosphere.

2. Pollution filter
In 2013, an EPA Chesapeake Bay Program panel of experts concluded, based upon a review of extensive research, that a “dense vegetative cover of turfgrass” reduces pollution and runoff. More precisely, the average soccer field can absorb 50,000 gallons of water before runoff occurs. The fibrous root system stabilizes soil to reduce erosion and prevents the movement of sediment into creeks and rivers.

Additionally, studies have found the noise absorptive capacity of turfgrass is a significant part of how landscapes are effective in reducing noise pollution.

3. Stormwater management
Landscaped areas reduce pollutants from leaching through the soil into the water supply or from entering surface water runoff. Turfgrasses filter stormwater excess and reduce sediment and pollutants from entering water bodies. Turfgrass plants also redirect the flow of water, slowing it and allowing more water to be absorbed by the soil, which aids in preventing soil erosion and flooding.

Did you know a healthy, sodded lawn absorbs rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field?

4. Heat
Environmental heating is reduced by turfgrass. On a hot summer day, a well maintained turfgrass area will be at least 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil.

The overall environmental cooling effect of turfgrass can be understood by comparing it to air conditioning. The average home has an air conditioner with a three or four ton capacity. The California Energy Commission has found the cooling effect of an average size lawn is equal to about nine tons of air conditioning. A single high school baseball field provides up to 70 tons of air conditioning. This cooling effect is beneficial for athletes and for reducing electrical needs for buildings and homes.

5. Wellness and stress
Green spaces have been shown to improve wellness and reduce stress. There is growing evidence that horticulture and natural grass found on sports fields and lawns is important on a human level. Plants lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension related to stress, improve attention and reduce feelings of fear and anger or aggression.

In 2002, The University of California – Riverside conducted research to support that hospital stays are positively affected by turfgrass and green spaces. Patients in hospital rooms with a view of nature and lawns recover more quickly than similar patients in rooms with a view of building walls.

Similarly, people who live and work in an environment with a view of lawns and nature compared to an urban view, were found to recover from stress more quickly. Employees with a view of landscaped areas experience less job pressure, greater job satisfaction and fewer headaches than those who do not have a view or can only see manmade objects. Green spaces are also proven to increase work productivity.

Also related to wellness and stress, two surveys on Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder have shown that children active in green spaces, such as lawn areas, experience less severe symptoms. Another study published in “Environment and Behavior” indicated green spaces can enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life’s stress.

6. Therapeutic
The care of turfgrass and plants can have a positive, therapeutic effect and is included in many rehabilitation programs. These programs have been successfully used to treat certain illnesses, aid in the recovery of disabled people and help the elderly stay mobile. Programs have even been successfully implemented in prison systems, allowing inmates to acquire new, marketable skills that they can use when they return to civilian life.

7. Community appeal
Turfgrass and green spaces increase community appeal and improve property values. SmartMoney magazine indicates that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3 percent higher than its base price. Additionally, it says one of the most cost effective ways to boost a home’s curb appeal is by attractively landscaping the yard. Well-manicured plots of land are one of the most important factors individuals and families consider when deciding where to live.

Green spaces create close-knit communities, which increases safety. Residents in landscaped areas tend to know their neighbors better, socialize more often and have stronger feelings of community when compared to residents living in more barren areas. Communities with trees and green spaces have lower crime, decreased police calls for domestic violence and decreased incidences of child abuse.

8. Recreation and sport
Turfgrass is used extensively for recreation and sport as well as providing places where adults, kids and pets can spend time outside the home. About 80 million people in the U.S. over the age of seven play sports on turfgrasses. The majority of professional athletes prefer to play on natural grass surfaces.

Providing places for recreation and encouraging activity is especially important with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting over one third of U.S. adults and 17 percent of American children and adolescents as obese. Recreational activities also provide children and adults leisure time in a positive and safe environment.