Forrest County Agricultural High School Students Visits with the Mississippi State University Turfgrass Team

Approximately 35 high school students traveled from Brooklyn, MS (just south of Hattiesburg) on Monday, March 7, 2016 to visit various turfgrass facilities at Mississippi State University.  Forrest County Agricultural High School teachers Mary Helen Lett (teaches Introduction to Agriculture), Mike Dale (teaches Agriculture and Natural Resources), and Rusty Coats (teaches Horticulture) accompanied the students on their trip.

The first stop for the students was with two Mississippi State Assistant Golf Professionals, Ryan Wilhelm and Trey Adams.  Ryan and Trey went over basic club grip and how to address the ball on the driving range, chipping green, and putting green.  For many students, this was the first time they had ever attempted to hit a golf ball.

The next stop was with Pat Sneed, Mississippi State Golf Course Superintendent.  Pat discussed various aspects of golf course maintenance and demonstrated various pieces of equipment vital to produce high quality turfgrass, which included a topdresser, reel mowers (walk behind and triplex units), an aerifier, and a sprayer.  The final stop of the morning was with Brandon Hardin (Mississippi State Athletic Field Manager).  The students got a chance to visit Davis Wade Stadium and learn about the challenges associated with managing turf at a very high level.

The Mississippi State University turfgrass team was on-site to provide information regarding the turfgrass program, such as the internship requirements, curriculum, and career opportunities.

Overall, for many of the students, this was the first time they had the opportunity to swing a golf club and get an overall glimpse of what it takes to produce championship level turf on a golf course and sports field.

We appreciate the efforts of Mary Helen Lett, Mike Dale, and Rusty Coats for bringing their students from Forrest County to Mississippi State University.  The turfgrass team would also like to thank the efforts of Brandon Hardin (MSU Athletic Field Manager), Pat Sneed (MSU Golf Course Superintendent), Ryan Wilhelm (MSU Assistant Golf Professional), and Trey Adams (MSU Assistant Golf Professional) for their time and expertise throughout the day.

Pat Sneed Forrest County Students
Pat Sneed, Mississippi State University Golf Course Superintendent, provides an overview of a walk-behind mower commonly used to mow putting greens.


Mississippi State Assistant Golf Professionals, Ryan Wilhelm and Trey Adams demonstrating how to hit a golf ball.
Mississippi State Assistant Golf Professionals, Ryan Wilhelm and Trey Adams demonstrating how to hit a golf ball.

Triplex Greensmower Operation

Recently, Mr. Pat Sneed developed a great lab session for the golf course operations class titled “Employee training”.  Students were assigned in groups of two and given time to develop a stepwise procedure for pre-operation inspection, equipment operation, and post operation care of an assigned piece of equipment.  After a given amount of time, each team presented a mock training session for the operation of the equipment with one acting as the trainer and the other as the trainee.

The following pieces of equipment were used in this exercise: walking greensmower, triplex greensmower, cup cutter, greens roller, and greens aerifier.  The piece of equipment detailed in this blog post is a triplex greensmower.  Stay tuned for future blog posts as other pieces of equipment will be highlighted.



Prepared by Jimmy McPherson and Doug Martin


  1. Check fuel and oil levels
  2. Check tire pressure
  3. Briefly inspect the mower for any possible leaks
  4. Be sure to understand the direction of cut for the day
  5. Clarify what hole to start mowing based on the expected golf outing
  6. Determine whether greens should be mowed once, double cut, or just rolled

When transporting

  1. Avoid hitting the reels on cart paths, bumps, tree roots, etc…
  2. Drive slowly
  3. Be aware of any golfers on the course
  4. Do not use any mobile devices during operation


  1. Get off the mower, set the parking break, and remove the flagstick
  2. Line up the given direction of cut based on the direction of the approach.
  3. Make the first pass as straight as possible by picking a spot in the distance off the green
  4. Be sure reels are engaged before making your first pass
  5. Allow the cup to split one of the two outside tires and middle tire
  6. Mow one side of the green
  7. When turning, make wide turns or even 3-point turns
  8. Never begin turning until your back tire is off the green
  9. Go to the opposite side of the first pass and continue mowing, overlapping your last pass
  10. Always be aware of leaks.  If a leak occurs, exit the green immediately and onto the cart path
  11. When finished, make a clean-up lap in the specified direction, if necessary
  12. Empty buckets when necessary (this will vary depending on growth)
  13. Get off the mower, set the parking break, and replace the flagstick when finished


  1. Empty buckets in designated area
  2. Clean buckets, mower, and reels thoroughly
  3. Re-fill all levels necessary
  4. Park the triplex with the reels down

We hope you find this information valuable and applicable to your golf course.  However, with any piece of equipment, each golf course will have its own nuisances with the care and operation of mowers.  Therefore, feel free to take this training sheet and add any necessary steps suitable for your particular site.


Weed of the Week Wrap-up

For those of you who have followed the blog in 2014, you may have noticed a “Weed of the Week” series published throughout the semester.  This is a direct result of the turf students enrolled in PSS 4823, Turfgrass Weed Management.  During the semester, students were placed into groups and assigned a specific weed to discuss life cycles, identification characteristics, and control options.  As you can all see for yourselves, the class did a great job discussing each weed that was highlighted.  In addition, I partnered with Dr. Hock in the department of Human Sciences at Mississippi State University in order to collect data to monitor progress throughout the semester.  We just received word that this blogging project was recently accepted and will be presented at the 2014 North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) conference.  A job well done by our turf students!  Student contributors included Dylan Boteler, Michael Denney, Dustin Miller, Douglas Martin, Jed McCoy, Ashley Averitt, Wes Dyer, Corey Garrison, Kyle Grider, Justin Hickman, Ethan Flournoy, Coleman Torgersen, Jordan Billingsley, and Christo Sullivan.

Class Pics Blog

Below is the title and abstract that will be presented.

Blogging about Turfgrass Weeds: A Strategy to Improve Students’ Writing Skills in a Turf Weed Management Course

Blogging is a tool that is increasing in popularity among all ages and for many different uses.  The use of blogging in the classroom is a unique tool to increase student comprehension and writing skills.  Blogging in teams allows students to receive feedback from their peers to improve their writing.  Students enrolled in Turf Weed Management at Mississippi State University were randomly assigned into groups of three to research, write, and publish a blog post on an assigned weed species.  Students completed a brief questionnaire prior to working on the assignment to determine their familiarity with blogs.  Of the 13 students in the class, 10 (77%) had never contributed to any blog.  Following the initial blog posts, the instructor identified areas for improving the quality of content and writing ability.  Spending more time initially helping students interpret appropriate information found on the Internet resulted in higher quality content in later posts.  Also, going through line by line with students on each blog post has resulted in a more concise writing style.  Students completed a questionnaire at the mid-point of the semester to assess how they were progressing with the assignment.  Twelve students responded they were highly satisfied with the blogging portion of the course.  The blogging component of the course has helped improve student writing skills and the ability to find reliable information about individual weed species.


Winter Kill? What Now?

The most prominent turf species of Mississippi – bahia, bermuda, centipede, fescue, St. Augustine, and Zoysia – were all affected by the cold winter temperatures.

St. A Living amongst Dead (Medium)In Tupelo, temperatures reached 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Starkville reached 8 degrees. Further south, areas near Jackson saw 13 degrees. Coastal cities didn’t fare much better.

There is winter damage at all of these locations. Physical symptoms of winter damage are sometimes difficult to distinguish from herbicide injury or disease. Therefore, it is important that turf managers and clients or club members look for patterns as a way of accessing injury and potential recuperative ability.


1) Cold damage manifests itself differently depending upon slope and direction, as well as shade. South facing slopes generally have regenerated better due to warmer soil temperatures; whereas, north facing slopes or shaded areas that receive less solar irradiation fared much worse.

2) Mowing height influences spring green color. Lower heights of cut generally green-up earlier. Higher heights of cut are dormant longer. This may be due to the amount of dead thatch and self-shading at a taller height. Mowing height may also influence micro-environments around the grass’s growing points.

3) Fall fertility and plant health does affect winter kill, but the pattern is not always clear. Many well maintained turf areas were unfairly damaged by cold temperatures. This could be due to excessive top growth at the expense of roots – common for St. Augustine. In bermuda and zoysia, it may be due to the amount of moisture left in the plants as a result of prolonging dormancy with fall nitrogen applications. But again, this is not a clear pattern and needs to be investigated.

4) All of these observations are compounded by excessive moisture levels. Areas near the coast that received minimal freeze damage suffered a surprising level of turf loss due to standing water and prolonged soil saturation.

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Take Action

1) The most difficult advice to convey is to be patient. In all but the worst cases, grass will recover. Masking the effects of damage using pigments and a low rate of fertilizer will enhance aesthetics and give turfgrass managers time to evaluate recovery when temperatures become more adequate for turfgrass growth. It could be late May or even June in the northern most part of our state before we have day and night time temperatures adequate for bermudagrass growth.

2) Consider your options and ask a few important questions before sodding. Primarily, where’s the sod coming from, and did the sod farm experience loss of plant health due to winter conditions? It stands to reason that if your grass got hammered, so did the sod producer’s. Does bringing in potentially weakened sod advance ones cause? In some cases, yes. Clients and club members often pressure turf managers into immediate resodding for playability issues. Cold damage manifests itself differently due to many different environmental reasons, so it may be that resodding those areas is a quicker way to recovery.

3) Let’s not forget that seeding is also an option. Golf and sports fields predominantly rely upon vegetatively propagated hybrid bermudagrass, but in some instances, seeded bermudagrass may be an acceptable means of masking and recovering winter damaged areas.

4) Not all species, nor varieties, are equally prone to winter injury. Zoysiagrass fared quite well at all sites I’ve visited, regardless of species or variety. On the other hand, St. Augustine was hammered. There are three standard St. Augustine varieties marketed in Mississippi. Floratam is one of the most common varieties along the coast, but it is the least cold tolerant. Palmetto and Raleigh are more common north of Interstate 10, but they were both hammered by our severe winter. Previous research has shown that temperatures below 15 degrees F significantly damage all commercially available St. Augustinegrass varieties.

Bermudagrass breeding efforts have advanced cold tolerance. Many selections made in cooler climates survive extreme freezing temperatures and should be considered as replacement varieties where appropriate. It should, however, be noted that mixing varieties may result in lack of uniformity, which can be an issue with some clientele.

The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program coordinates research across the nation. A bermudagrass variety trial planted in 2013 at Mississippi State has yielded interesting, albeit preliminary, data this year pertaining to winter recovery. Even though varieties show winter survival and early green up differences, all have survived. It should also be noted that these are first year trials. Experience has shown that fully grown-in grass behaves quite differently.

NTEP Winter Kill

In summary: If possible, be patient. Masking weak areas with pigment until they recover is a good option. However, high traffic areas and locations with cooler soil temperatures may warrant re-planting once warmer weather arrives. A good rule-of-thumb may be that if you have 1 green leaf per square foot, you will likely see full recovery this season. But if you’re dealing with larger areas, re-establishing via sod, sprigs, plugs or seeds may be justified.

Turf Team contributors to this article: Jay McCurdy, Wayne Philly, Barry Stewart, Christian Baldwin

Other useful sources of information:

Weed of the Week: Carolina Geranium

Authors: Jed McCoy, Doug Martin, Jordan Billingsley

What is Carolina Geranium?

Carolina Geranium (Geranium carolinianum) is a member of the Geranium family (Geraniaceae).  It is a native, broadleaf winter annual. One will typically find Carolina Geranium in poor soils and near dry areas; mainly landscape beds and thinner turf areas. This weed has been used medicinally as well. Mainly, it has been used to stop bleeding and sooth sore throats when crushed.North Farm Greenhouse Blog-

What does it look like?

Carolina Geranium is a diffusely branched weed standing about 1” tall.  This geranium has long petiole stems that are often pink to reddish with hairy stems that flow into a finely divided palmate leaf. The flower also had a little inconspicuous pink bud.  This weed is most commonly identified by its “stork’s-bill” seed head. It is a long, hairy, pointed head that will produce multiple seeds that contain hard seed coats.

Flower Blog

Stork's Bill Blog-

How do I control it?

Carolina Geranium is a tough weed to control. Not only does the seed have a hard-coated membrane, which can withstand prolonged dormancy in the ground, but it also is hard to control with herbicides once established. Cultural practices include frequent mowing and hand pulling, while herbicide options include metsulfuron and trifloxysulfuron-sodium .

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.

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.

Weed of the Week: Hairy Bittercress

Authors: Ashley Averitt, Wes Dyer, Coleman Torgersen


Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsute L., depending on its location, is a winter or summer annual weed. It is most often found in landscape areas, container-grown plants, and greenhouses. Its stems branch at the base and can achieve a height of 12 inches. Growing on the central leaf stem is 2 to 4 pairs of leaflets that are alternately arranged. Each leaf occurs on a petiole that is distinctly hairy. One should take note that the upper leaves will be noticeably more hairy than the lower leaves. This weed flowers in clusters while each individual flower is small (2-3mm) and composed of 4 white petals. The fruit (seed capsule) is a silique, which is a long, narrow capsule with many seeds. Siliques can explosively spread the seed as far as 10 feet from the parent plant. It tends to grow in disturbed soils and will form dense mats of rosettes over an area.

Hairy Bittercress Blog Reduced-2

Identifying Characteristics

Hairy bittercress has long, narrow siliques and round leaflets that are alternately arranged. Also, this weed has white flowers with 4 petals in dense clusters at the end of the stem.

Hairy Bittercress Blog Reduced-


Improving drainage can be a great way to deter this moisture-loving weed. If you have severe infestations of hairy bittercress, it may require chemical treatment. Post emergence herbicides such as 2-4 D, triclopyr, clopyralid, dicamba, or MCPP should be used.

Finally, don’t forget that wild hairy bittercress is edible! It is best to gather in early spring or late fall when the leaves are tender. It adds a peppery bite to raw salads, and can be cooked and added to soups.

Weed of the Week: Chamberbitter

 Authors: Jed McCoy, Corey Garrison, Justin Hickman

What is Chamberbitter?

Chamberbitter (Phyllanthus urinaria) is a member of the Spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), sometimes referred to as gripeweed, leafflower, or little mimosa.  It is native to Asia, but has found its way across the southeast and into Texas. Chamberbitter is a warm-season broadleaf annual and usually emerges around May or June when the soil temperatures have warmed to approximately 70oF.  It spreads by seeds that are located on the bottom side of the branch.  Ornamental beds and turfgrass are the two most common places to find Chamberbitter.  In South America, this plant is believed to be good for medicinal purposes; specifically, treatment of kidney stones.

Chamberbitter Overview Blog

What does Chamberbitter look like?

Chamberbitter can grow tall and thin, which can be aesthetically unpleasing.  The leaves grow in two alternating rows.  Leaves are thin and smooth which resemble the seedling of a mimosa plant.  It is best identified by the fruiting structures on the underside of the branch which produce numerous seeds.  These seed capsules can explode and spread seeds over a large area.  Also, like some spurge, if you break the stem, it will produce a milky white sap.

Chamberbitter seeds Blog

How do I control Chamberbitter?

Chamberbitter can be a difficult weed to control.  It is drought tolerant and grows rapidly.  Seeds on the underside of the plant can be produced in as little as two weeks.  If making a pre-emergent herbicide application, Chamberbitter control is often unreliable because it germinates later in the spring than most summer annual weeds.

Cultural Practices:

  • Frequent mowing
  • Hand pulling
  • In landscape beds, 1-3 inch mulch layer will block seed from receiving light

Chemical Control

  • Atrazine
  • Three-way herbicides containing dicamba, 2,4-D, mecoprop (MCPP)
  • Isoxaben (Gallery 75DF)