Winter Dormancy on Tall Fescue

Author: Wayne Philley

As a turfgrass breeder I get many near impossible challenges. When will there be a turfgrass that stays green 365 a year?  This challenge may not be as difficult as it sounds. If you live in north Mississippi that grass could be turf-type tall fescue.  With the right soil and some irrigation in summer, this cool season grass can avoid dormancy. Through the years we have conducted numerous tall fescue cultivar trials at MSU and have seen green color throughout the year.  That didn’t happen this year.  In January, we experienced the most drastic loss of color (winter dormancy) I have seen on this species at our location (photo 1).  Cool season grasses can suffer from low temperature injury even in Mississippi.  By April, after some warmer days and one application of nitrogen fertilizer, beauty was restored (photo 2).Jan2014

Photo 1.

April 2014 Blog

Photo 2.

Weed of the Week: Shepherd’s-purse

Authors: Michael Denney, Christo Sullivan, Dustin Miller


Shepherd’s-purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris, is a winter annual or biennial plant that reproduces by seed. Seed will typically germinate when soil temperatures are below 60oF in the fall or early spring.

Shep-purse overview BLOG

Shepherd’s-purse first emerges in the form of a rosette.  Base leaves are 3-6” long, about 1.5” wide, and deeply lobed. It is often confused with dandelion. The lower leaf surface has scattered hairs. The rosette overwinters, then resumes growth in the spring. A slender stalk appears and the plant continually bears flowers from spring well into the fall. The flower stalk may be simple or branched, and can grow 6 to 18” tall. The mature seed pods are found on the lower portion and clusters of new flowers can be observed at the tip.  Individual flowers have four white petals that are less than ¼” in size. The leaves on the flower stalk grow 1-2” long and are shaped like arrowheads.

The flat seed pods are about ¼” long, with a notched tip and pointed base. A narrow stem about ½” long attaches each seed pod to the raceme. Seed pods are attached at a 90o angle every ¼ to ½” up the stem. The pods are initially green, then turn to a tan color with two rows of tiny yellow-orange seeds. Each plant produces roughly 30,000-50,000 seeds. Only 1/32” long, seeds are easily scattered by wind or water.Shep-purse seedhead close-up BLOG


Mechanical – Tilling and mowing can be effective if done before flowering occurs.

Chemical – Mustards are resistant to many herbicides, but dicamba or metsulfuron can achieve good control.

Where does this guy Scott Live?


 I am a college basketball junkie, have been for a long time, so I have been watching a lot of basketball the last week or so (Go Badger’s and HailState Hoops).  About every hour there seems to be an advertisement for Scott’s lawn products featuring Scott, the Scotsman, although I think he should be in a kilt and not just a plaid shirt.   The guy is everywhere, even in my local Lowes store.  He’s telling me it is time to feed my lawn.  I am trying to figure out where he lives.  In the commercial his turf and his landscape seems to be in wonderful form except for his neighbors  grass that is whispering “ feed me” .  Pretty sure he has never seen Little Shop of Horrors.  If my grass was whispering “feed me” I think I would move.  I can’t think of anyplace but a narrow band in the northern transition zone that might need fertilizer plus PRE product right now maybe in Kentucky or Southern Ohio or on the West Coast.  Checking soil temps in northern IL I see they still have not cracked 40, and I am pretty sure that things are similar in the cool season grass zone. 

In my Mississippi Lawn bermudagrass is just starting to wake up and put out a few tender blades.   The soil temps hit 50 a few weeks ago (March 1) and I put out my PRE then, on a calcined clay carrier as my grass is far from needing any fertilizer.  I like to wait until it is fully green and I have mowed it a couple times.  I am talking mowed the grass and not a few renegade weeds.    

With all the concern about nutrient pollution should Scott’s be encouraging home owners to put out fertilizer, particularly N that their dormant or nearly dormant grass does not need?  In my patchwork experimental  lawn my zoysia grass is coming on, maybe 30% green, my bermudagrass and St. Augustine grass are just barely active.    This is certainly good marketing on Scott’s part, but even though they market nationwide these are cool season grass products that have little business being marketed in warm season grass regions.  The photo is from my Starkville Lowes Store.  Our grasses probably don’t need any fertilizer for at least another month if not two, save for the few  tall fescue lawns that may exist in northern Mississippi.  Also the concept of feeding your lawn twice for the season is just not adequate for our long summer growing season where we need at least 3 applications of fertilizer. 

It’s probably not too late to get a good PRE out.  I would either spray it or use a neutral carrier product.  Our local Co-op carries a prodiamine plus sulfentrazone product that would be a good application now.    A PRE on a 0-0-20 fertilizer would be a great product but I do not see that available to the homeowner.  You may have some crabgrass already germinated but we might get lucky with a late frost.  If crabgrass is a problem you can use some quinclorac POST.  Remember feed your lawn when it is ready. 

So tell me, where do you think Scott Lives? 


Rounds 4 Research Deadline Looming April 15 – Please Act

Golf Course Supers, Turf Professionals, Vendors, etc..

I’d like to call your attention to the upcoming April 15 sign up deadline for the Rounds 4 Research auction. This is a call to action.


How it works: Golf facilities can support the effort by donating rounds of golf for two or four or “stay and play” packages and other items that will be auctioned off online on to generate funds for turfgrass research. Rounds 4 Research is administered by the Environmental Institute for Golf and presented in partnership with the Toro Co. The EIFG is the philanthropic organization of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

The sign up is simple and takes 10 minutes:

Funding isn’t a pleasant issue in turfgrass research these days. There’s a lack of it from all angles – corporate, state, and federal. It is my understanding that the local chapter, e.g. LMGCSA or MAGCSA, would oversee funds and dictates where they go. We hope all that participate will see fit to invest in our MSU turf program.

An example project that R4R money might be used for: MSU Turf Team wants to secure $40,000 in matching funds over the next two years to demonstrate industry good will and support for a federal and state funded BMP project. This would go a long way towards supporting a graduate student and getting us started. There are numerous other projects we lack funding for in addition to this one.

If I, or any of my colleagues, can help persuade GM’s, boardmembers, or owners of the value of the R4R program, please let me know.  Also, feel free to contact Ron Wright (GCSAA Southeaster Field Staff Representative) for further details and logistics.



Weed of the Week: Spring Beauty


Authors: Ethan Flournoy, Kyle Grider, Dylan BotelerSpring Beauty Overview Blog


Claytonia virginica L., otherwise known as Spring Beauty, is a part of the Purslane Family. This perennial herb is often considered a “sign of spring” because it is one of the earliest blooming spring flowers. The sweetly scented Spring Beauty overwinters and propagates through its corm (swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ). Spring Beauty has made most of eastern North America its home.  It has been located as far south as Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and as far north as Canada and Maine.  Spring Beauty’s flower has five petals, five curved stamens, and three lobed stigmas, while the leaves are slender and lanceolate. The seeds are very small and are released when the capsule fruit breaks open. The seeds also have elaiosomes (fleshy structures on the seeds that are high in lipids and proteins) that allow for ant dispersal.

Spring Beauty Flower Blog


Spring Beauty has a very short life-span; therefore, instead of spending time and money to control it, one might choose to admire the beauty of the weed. Due to its low growing habit, mowing is usually not a viable option for control. Maintaining a strong turf canopy through proper turf cultural practices goes a long way in controlling this weed. For chemical control, broadleaf herbicides such as 2,4-D, mecoprop (MCPP), MCPA, dicamba, and tricolpyr are available.  As always, read the herbicide labels and use the recommended rates.