Getting a Closer Look at Your Turf

Having a microscope at your property can help you do your job better.  Being able to take a quick look at a suspect spot from the course could help save you money and/or heartache.  The convenience of having a microscope at hand will also make it easy for random sampling or looking at a spot before you would usually send it in for diagnosis.

A basic microscopic disease identification class can give you the basics to identify the major turf diseases.  I am not saying avoid the lab for diagnosis.  This may give you an extra day or two before they come back with their results.  If the pathogen is active it is pretty apparent under the microscope.

A basic microscope to be able to view spores from a pathogen will be a compound microscope.  Something that will magnify the sample to 400x is what you will need for most pathogens. I also recommend that you get a binocular microscope for comfort.  Having two eyepieces makes looking at a sample much easier.  I also would not get a microscope without a movable stage.  If you have to move the slide under the microscope by hand you will probably get very frustrated.  Having a stage that is moved mechanically will save you time as your are looking at your samples.

You don't have to be a turf pathologist to make use of your microscope.  A microscopic disease identification class can help or what I do is google the disease and you will find some pretty good pictures of the diseases you may be looking at and their spores.  It also doesn't hurt to reach out through social networking as well.  Recently John Kaminski from Penn State and Larry Stowell from Pace Turf helped explain a few things to help me understand some of the things that I was seeing under the microscope.

The cost of a basic compound microscope with the above mentioned features will most likely cost you around  $750.  If the microscope can help you avoid one application or save your greens from losing turf it should pay for itself very quickly.  Having a microscope is just another tool in the bag that can make your job a little easier.