As I mentioned in my earlier blog entry, turfgrasses in Wisconsin are exposed to a number of different maladies throughout the winter. When the course is covered with snow, the examination of turfgrass for potential damage can be difficult. As earlier stated, ice formation can cause extensive damage on northern golf courses throughout the United States. Different species of turfgrasses maintain different levels of tolerance to ice coverage. Since we experienced a winter thaw in early January, ice was formed throughout the course at North Shore. Since there was no extreme drop in temperature during this time period, the ice formed slowly, allowing for gas exchange while the freeze took place. This "slow freeze" has allowed the plants and to release gases, which trapped below the ice, can cause turfgrass decline and even death. In order to better ascertain the health of the turf below the ice, members of the NSCC golf maintenance staff ventured on to the golf course to extract turf samples from various greens which have a history of ice accumulation. These samples have been brought into the maintenance facility where they have been planted in small contains. Aside from some slight yellowing on the leaf tips, they appear to be very healthy. Thankfully, the "smell of death" is absent. In this case, I would speculate that the slowly formed, permeable ice has actually served as an insulator against the below freezing temperatures we experienced in mid to late January.
It is important to keep in mind that we are not finished with winter yet. In fact, the turfgrass plants are most susceptible to ice and freezing damage in late winter and early spring. At this point, the plants have depleted most of their protective carbohydrate reserves and will begin to break dormancy. These succulent plants are very tender and unable to withstand a hard freeze. The NSCC golf course maintenance team will continue monitor conditions throughout the remainder of the winter and take any necessary measures to promote a healthy golf course in the spring.