Preparing for winter

Summer’s still holding strong for now, but superintendents need to start thinking about protecting turf from upcoming seasons. One super shares his tips for turning the heat up on snow mold.

August 5, 2011
Disease Maintenance

Snow is the last thing a superintendent wants to think about this time of year. After a blistering hot and wet summer, it seems like the fluffy white stuff couldn’t possibly be coming in just a few months.

At Westwood Country Club in Williamsville, New York, superintendent Bryan Culver knows the threat of cold weather and snow mold is coming up quickly. But he’s not worried, since much of his bent Poa at the 18-hole private course came up just about clean this past season.

“We came out pretty clean with our snow mold this year,” he says. “We did have some in the rough, where we do not treat, but it was clean overall. You can really see the intensity of the disease in the areas where we didn’t treat it. It gives you a pretty good checkpoint.”

Although he’s used several different programs to protect his turf from snow mold, he’s scaled back over time to PCNB sprayable for the economy of the fungicide. He uses it throughout the course, but has been trying out different products and combinations of fungicides, like Daconil, to get the best results for his turf.

“But for the past several years we could sort of see the handwriting on the wall,” Culver says of PCNB being pulled from the market. “I wanted to have an active knowledge of what I was going to do.

“What I saw coming out of winter this year with Tourney, I was pretty impressed. We were very clean, and we had a pretty tough winter last year. All the fairways were covered with snow, and it was clean there.”

No matter what he’s putting down to prevent snow mold, one thing is common in his practice from year to year: he puts the fungicide down early enough not to get caught by the weather.

“Last year I applied it around the fourth of November,” he says. “I would rather not get caught with having continuous snow cover from the 15th of November and think, ‘Geez, I should’ve just done it a week or two earlier.’”

Located near Buffalo, Williamsville can get a large amount of snow almost in a surprise storm, and once the snow comes down, there’s no real chance to do anything about preventing snow mold.

“We typically apply early on, just because we’ve had a few years where the snow came and we didn’t have the time to get the material down,” he says. “I’d rather gain the coverage on that end and be able to sleep well by having it down the first few weeks of November.”

Beyond the timing of the application, Culver makes sure the turf is as clean as it can get before the snow covers it in a thick blanket for the season.

“You always want to make sure your fairways are clean. One thing we do prior to application is to take a blower and get rid of leaf material,” says Culver. “We’ll run a Buffalo Turbine ahead of the spraying to make sure everything is clear.”

Once the turf is ready, he applies his fungicide at the higher ratings according to the label just to be sure he can control it, he says.

“You don’t know how long winter’s going to hang in there or what kind of snow mold pressure you’re going to have,” says Culver. “I’ve seen years where there’s a lot of snow mold pressure without a difficult winter or a lot of snow cover. It didn’t surprise me really last year when we came out clean because we prepared the way we needed to.

“As far as snow mold goes, it’s like dollar spot. It’s not the most difficult thing in the world to control. It’s about finding the right window, getting your application out at the right time and using the correct products for your turf.”