Fine Fescue as a Disease Management Strategy at Northland Country Club

Last week, after noticing some potential disease on the 14th fairway and approach, I sent a couple of samples to the Turf Diagnostic Lab at the University of Wisconsin. The suspected disease is a leaf spot caused by the pathogen Bipolaris sorokiniana. Bipolaris leaf spot is a bugger of a disease, which affects mostly bentgrass. While it does not completely wipe out turf it does present a challenge in that fungicide applications are expensive and only seem to suppress the disease as opposed to completely controlling it. Dr. Jim Kerns of the University of Wisconsin wrote a blog post in July on Bipolaris for the TurfDiseases blog. The post highlights some of the difficulties of dealing with Bipolaris leaf spot. 

Parlaying off of yesterday's post on fairway dry spots; one of our plans for dealing with Bipolaris leaf spot is the use of fine fescues. Research on fine fescue and leaf spot is limited but some very nice work is being done by Drs. Brian Horgan and Eric Watkins at the University of Minnesota. According to Dr. Watkins their trials using fine fescue at fairway heights of cut have not shown any significant instance of Bipolaris leaf spot. Other "turfnerds", as we like to refer to ourselves, have said the instance of leaf spot on fine fescue, especially chewings fescue, is generally low.

The photo below shows Bipolaris leaf spot on the 14th approach. 

The next photo shows a small area of Bipolaris on the 16th fairway. The affected turf is bentgrass while the green, unaffected turf is fine fescue. As the disease ebbs and flows from season to season the affected bentgrass will decrease in population while the unaffected chewings fescue will increase. A very natural way to manage this difficult disease. 

Again, this is a situation in which we are working to find a solid long term solution to a problem rather than simply treating symptoms year after year.