By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.
[NOTE: This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]
Let’s face it, it’s hot! It’s also dry in many of our areas. Some say these drought conditions started last fall and continued through a cold, dry winter. Now that we’ve hit the hot, dry summertime, drought stress can kill our turf and our budget.
You may be a golf course superintendent, professional landscaper, or a homeowner caring for your yard. Drought conditions affect us all. Our differences may be our access to water, our water costs, and our budget. But they’re all tight. The sooner we alleviate turf stress, the better.
Drought is crippling the Southwest United States. As a matter of fact, water costs have gotten so high in the San Diego area that Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club closed indefinitely on July 9.
To avoid similar circumstances, we must make the water that’s available to us stretch to meet our needs – without killing the turf. How do we balance availability and cost against acceptable conditions?
1. Have a Plan
Good water management practices include a drought plan. In fact, if your region requires a water-withdrawal permit to irrigate, you’re probably required to have a drought management plan as well. Water conservation practices might include the following:
- Lined ponds
- Moisture monitoring systems
- Irrigation inspection and maintenance
- Scheduled aeration
- Alternative water sources (effluent and brackish water)
- Turf tolerant to brackish water
- Drought-tolerant, no-mow turf
- Raised mowing heights
- Decreased mowing frequency
- Naturalized grass areas with good soil conditions
- Root-pruning trees to avoid water competition
- Application of growth regulators before wilt/dormancy
- Soil improvement
- Root mass improvement
- Suspension of fertilizers and pesticides when turf is dormant
- The use of surfactants to increase water penetration
2. Use a Surfactant
Of that plan, one of the most important and quickest drought recovery aides is a high-quality soil surfactant. Surfactants decrease the surface tension of water, so it can penetrate and move through the soil more effectively. This makes available water more useful, productive, and efficient.
I’ve worked over 35 years in turf and agriculture and I’ve never seen a better surfactant than Huma Gro® Turf Surf-Max®. Surf-Max® works in a unique way, moving water horizontally before pushing water down through the soil profile. This has many benefits. On sand-based greens, we don’t lose water straight down through the soil profile. More water is kept in the root zone. In clay soils, Surf-Max® helps water penetrate with less pooling on the surface. Surf-Max® also moves water quickly and efficiently through thatch layers that are traditionally difficult for water to penetrate. Additionally, Surf-Max® increases the availability of nutrients and soil conditioning products in the soil as they are able to move freely with the water through the soil profile.
3. Improve Soil Health, Feed (beneficial) Fungi
In conjunction with surfactant treatment, soil needs to be conditioned to be more receptive to water. At Huma Gro® Turf, we take a sustainable approach of improving soil structure and soil health. Healthy soil allows better water infiltration and has better water-holding capacity. We accomplish this with Huma Gro® Turf Fertil Humus® to stimulate the beneficial fungi in the soil. Fertil Humus® also breaks down and recycles organic matter in the soil, producing humus-rich soil.
4. Feed (beneficial) Bacteria
On the other hand, Multi-Purpose improves soil structure by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the soil and stimulating microbial activities. The combination of Fertil Humus® and Multi-Purpose produces a long-term, healthy soil environment that saves water, makes nutrients more available, and sustains healthy turf.
5. Increase Root Mass
Finally, a superior root system should be developed. The more mass to the root system, the greater the water and nutrient uptake and overall plant health. Huma Gro® Turf increases root mass with a product called Breakout®. When applied to soil, Breakout® promotes a dense fibrous root system.
The sooner we start preventive and recovery measures, the sooner we see results. Here’s the recap:
- Preventive – be prepared: Have a drought plan.
- Quick fix – surfactant: Surf-Max® aids water penetration and distribution.
- Long-term – soil health (fungi): Huma Gro Fertil Humus® feeds beneficial fungi in soil.
- Long-term – soil health (bacteria): Multi-Purpose feeds beneficial bacteria in soil.
- Long-term – root mass: Breakout® promotes root growth.
Product trials for water infiltration and water savings are available upon request. A thatch infiltration bench test of Surf-Max® demonstrated by Dr. Johann Buck is available on YouTube: http://bit.ly/HGT-SurfMaxVideo
Let’s use water as efficiently as possible as soon as possible. Whether in drought or abundance, we can do more with less both on the golf course and at home.