Inside the Game: Dollarweed Edition

It should be no secret that I’m a fan of dollarweed. It lives in wet areas near the beach, which I’m also a fan of. So that means doing research trials requires locations near the beach, where there is fresh sea food… You see where I’m going with this?

But to be honest, I like the look of it. It’s different than grass, but has some cool characteristics, like spreading via stolons and rhizomes. It doesn’t produce big showy flowers often, but when it does, they’re this sort of compact umbel (like an umbrella).

This season, I found dollarweed in the pond near my house before I found it in turf. It’s a native, sort of. There are about three species of Hydrocotyle found in northern MS and possibly five to six along the coast. I can’t really tell them apart unless there’s a flower, and even then, I’m pretty much useless. I’ve seen great examples of this “weed” used as a ground cover down in the tropics – places like Cuba and the Virgin Islands. It’s definitely got some utility as such, but most folks just want to kill it.

For the average homeowner, what kills it is very often what’s easiest to find at the average lawn and garden store. Several products are mentioned in the publication linked below. A new formulation of Scott’s Bonus S with metsulfuron-methyl came out earlier in the year. That’s a great herbicide; although, it is by no means the only product out there that controls dollarweed.

The old formulation had atrazine in it, but atrazine application is being “phased out” in Florida, so we’ve started to see our own product lines shift to reflect those regulations. In trials at Biloxi last year, we saw increased control from the newer formulation. MSM-turf contains the same active ingredient but requires liquid application.

Keep on the look out for more new products aimed at homeowners for this and other troublesome turfgrass weeds.


Dollarweed Publication

Mississippi Turfgrass Magazine

First Edition MS Turfgrass Magazine

Thanks to numerous sponsors, the Mississippi Turfgrass Association, and the MSU Extension Service, our MS Turfgrass Magazine has finally been published. There’s a lot of work involved in publishing a magazine – more than I had thought. But with continued support from current and future advertisers, this magazine can enhance the turfgrass industry in our state and beyond.

Please check out the latest online edition, and become a member of the MTA today for a print copy along with many other benefits.


Mom and Pop Maintenance

I am often asked to consult at low maintenance, “mom and pop” style golf courses. I’m asked even more often to make a plan or publication for the same style courses. I’m working on that. It’s not easy. For one, every course is different. And its especially challenging if there’s not a person to make agronomic decisions on the staff. Not a lie: I get more requests from board members, county supervisors, and owners than I do superintendents. That’s partly because most of the courses don’t hire supers, which is another topic entirely.

Here’s a letter I wrote for a low budget course this morning. I thought I’d share it and see what kind of reactions it gets. It’s not perfect. It’s far from complete or comprehensive. It’s for one golf course, with a very individual (although not unique) set of problems, if that makes sense.

Excuse the absence of pictures, our blog server is being stubborn this morning. Now I’m going to spray some herbicides. -Jay

To whom it may concern:

I have twice visited _____ Country Club (once in early March and again on June 27th). As the state Turfgrass Specialist, I often visit private and municipal golf facilities such as this one. These courses play an important, and often overlooked, role for the game of golf in Mississippi. Most importantly, they serve to introduce our youth to the game of golf. It is therefore an integral part of my program to help these courses maximize their potential.

That being said, it is not unusual to see these facilities struggle to meet the expectations of today’s golfers. I think most of us would agree that _____ CC has great potential but can certainly improve. This is why I write this letter.

I have spoken with Mr. _____, Superintendent and caretaker of the facility. I understand his unmet needs and concerns. What follows is my basic advice for improving your course. The basics are largely in place. With the exception of a few pieces of equipment as well as a budget for pesticides and fertilizers, Mr. _____  has most of what he needs to perform these tasks.

Greens are thatchy, soft, and diseased. How do we correct this? I propose three options:

1) Renovate greens complexes and remove built up organic matter. Follow that with sprigging or by allowing bermudagrass to come back from below ground roots. It is my opinion that you do not need to change bermudagrass cultivars. I believe there are more demanding issues at hand than the grass type on the greens.

2) My preferred option, and the one that requires the fewest inputs for return. Rent or buy a core aerifier. Pulling 1/2 to 3/4 inch cores and removing them will allow you to remove approximately 5 to 10% of the existing organic matter per pass on the closest spacings. You would follow that up with a generous top dressing of sand in order to fill those holes. It is necessary to remove the excess cores rather than drag them back in. This will serve to dilute the thatch which is harboring disease and making the greens so soft that they can’t be mown without tracking when slightly wet.

3) My final option would be perhaps less effective but could be done with existing equipment. That is, aggressively verticut the greens on a weekly basis. Verticutting needs to be done regardless of whether you adopt the previously suggested opitons, but this will only give temporary relief. Ultimately, core aerification or frequent greens renovation (approximately every 7 to 10 years) are the only options for dramatic improvement.

There is a great deal of crabgrass and other annual weed species throughout the property. Preemergence herbicides are part of the solution. Mr. _____ is well aware that postemergence control of crabgrass is ineffective and somewhat expensive, especially considering time and equipment hours. To better control crabgrass and other troublesome turf weeds, we ultimately need to apply a preemergence herbicide in the spring (approximately March 15) and fall (approximately September 15). Options are included below.

Commonly applied   preemergence herbicides. WSSA and HRAC classification systems are provided to   help herbicide applicators alternate modes of action in order to prevent herbicide resistance.

Timing Mode-of-Action WSSA Group HRAC Group Common Name Trade Name
Pre Mitotic inhibition 3 K1 dithiopyr Dimension
Pre Mitotic inhibition 3 K1 pendimethalin Pendulum
Pre Mitotic inhibition 3 K1 prodiamine Barricade
Pre Mitotic inhibition 15 K3 metolachlor Pennant
Pre Lipid biosynthesis   inhibition 8 N bensulide Bensumec
Pre Protoporphyrinogen   oxidase (PPO) inhibition 14 E oxadiazon Ronstar
Pre/Post Mitotic inhibition 3 K1 pronamide Kerb
Pre/Post Photosystem II inhibition 5 C1 amicarbazone Xonerate
Pre/Post Photosystem II inhibition 5 C1 atrazine Aatrex
Pre/Post Photosystem II inhibition 5 C1 metribuzin Sencor
Pre/Post Photosystem II inhibition 5 C1 simazine Princep
Pre/Post Cellulose synthesis   inhibition 29 L indaziflam Specticle
Pre/Post Lipid biosynthesis   inhibition 16 N ethofumesate Prograss

Control may be limited   due to herbicide resistance. The most common herbicide resistance in   Mississippi turf is that of Poa annua   to photosystem II inhibiting herbicides. Therefore, rotation of modes of   action, as well as follow up applications to ensure complete control are   recommended.

For simplicity, I would suggest an application of pendimethalin or prodiamine in September of 2014. An application of simazine in mid-January 2015 (can be mixed with glyphosate if bermudagrass is dormant). And an application of one of the following in early to mid-March of 2015: dithiopyr, metolachlor, pendimethalin, or prodiamine. I promote rotating chemistries according to the included bulletin in order to prevent herbicide resistance.

It should be noted that label recommendations should be followed, especially due to the potential for herbicide injury. Always read and follow the label.

Postemergence treatments for crabgrass. Mr. _____  is currently using MSMA, which will no longer be a legal option in the next few years once pulled by the EPA. It has never been a great option due to lack of effectiveness, and due to bermudagrass injury, but it is cheap. The new standard is quinclorac applied with a methylated seed oil. Multiple applications are required after crabgrass reaches 1 tiller. Therefore, this application relies heavily upon proper scouting and timing of herbicide application. Apply as roughly a late-April to mid-May application for best control. This product mixed with 2,4-D will also control a large variety of broadleaf weeds. It will not control our most noxious broadleaf weed, Virginia buttonweed.

The best option for VBW is a product containing the active ingredient fluroxypyr (commercial brands include Escalade II and many others). It is best applied while Virginia buttonweed is young and supple; however, follow up applications may be needed in heavily infested areas.

Finally, a nutrient management plan should be implemented on the course. Using fewer inputs is ultimately our goal, and to do this, we need to provide proper nutrients to promote soil and plant health. Primarily, Nitrogen is the most limiting element required for vigorous plant growth. It is always recommended that one apply nutrients and lime according to soil test recommendations, but in general, 4 to 6 pounds of N are required per year for sustained hybrid bermudagrass growth on golf course fairways. This should not all be applied at once. Rather, it can be split into monthly or bi-weekly (every two weeks) applications on fairways as a granular application.

Bermudagrass putting greens rarely receive such high levels of Nitrogen as those listed previously for fairway heights of cut. I suggest 2 to 3 lbs of N / 1000 sq ft / year. But it should be applied as weekly applications. So roughly 1/4 lb of N / 1000 sq ft on a weekly basis is plenty. In fact, a lot of superintendents are as low as 1/10 lb of N / 1000 / week. This is often applied as a liquid application. For low budge courses, I suggest sticking with a granular applications applied evenly at very low rates going multiple directions on the green. It is important (although not required)  that applications be timed to coincide with other cultural practices. For instance, applying after an aggressive verticutting, or after core aerification, can be beneficial.

Nitrogen source is not terribly critical for most low budget golf courses. What is critical is that the product is applied evenly and is watered in lightly so as to settle prills into the turf canopy and so as to reduce volatilization and loss of nitrogen (this is especially a concern when using products containing the N source of urea). N loss from urea may be excessive during peak temperature conditions if not watered in properly. This does not apply to slow release sources of N. Coated prills, whether with polymer or sulfur, reduce loss via volatilization. Additionally, slow release XCU’s (long chain ureas) and Urea formaldehyde, also reduce N loss via volatilization.

Fertilizers are not 100% nitrogen. When we make a nitrogen recommendation, we are referencing pure nitrogen / unit area / time. A bag of urea (46-0-0) is 46% nitrogen. A simple conversion, regardless of analysis, is to divide 100% by % nitrogen, in this case 46%. Thus 2.2 lbs of the product is equivalent to 1 lb of nitrogen. An example: 18-24-6 is a common starter fertilizer for spring green up. It contains 18% N, 24% P, and 6% K. Divide 100% by 18%, and that’s equal to 5.6. Thus it takes 5.6 lbs of the product to equal 1 lb of N.

Plan to attend MSU Turfgrass Field Day on August 26th, 2014 in Starkville, MS

Thanks, and feel free to contact me should more information be needed.



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.

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.



Lawn Care Operators – Application Data Management

As Lawn Care Operators (LCO’s) you’re managing numerous properties – each somewhat different. And as part of your state’s pesticide applicator regulations, you’re responsible for keeping up with a minimum amount of information concerning every application. IMG_0721 (2)

So take a few notes about what you should be noting! You can do this via smart phone app, or just create a paper trail for every account – as long as you can show it to the inspector and regulators. Read here for Mississippi’s Bureau of Plant Industries regulation of professional services.

Here’s the main ones I think are pertinent:

Street Address
Latitude and Longitude
Date of application
Time of application
Applicator Name
Contract Number
Application Type (ex: preemergence, broadleaf and/or grass postemergence, fertilizer, fungicide, insecticide … )
Granular or Liquid Application
Spot Spray?
Complete Coverage?
Application material active ingredient
Trade Name
Reason for Application
Rate of each material applied
Area covered with treatment
Use restrictions for material and how directions were followed
Whether product was irrigated in
Next rain event
Soil Temperature
Air Temperature
% Cloud Cover
Whether Soil moisture was dry, adequate, high, excessive
Turf stage of growth
%Turf green cover
When was the property last mown? Is mown a word or is it mowed?
And then just notes about the property:
What weeds, disease, insects were present
In what stage
Recommend follow up, Yes or No?
Always take some pictures of problem areas.
Some others that might prove helpful for your logs would be:
whether the homeowner was present
were they informed of application
if so, how: phone, email, person? when?
Can you think of other info that might be useful?


Yes, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several. One of which is DoForms (there are several others). Most are an online database accessible via smart phone. You basically make a new form that asks you to fill in responses to different types of questions. Ideally, your applicator would fill in questions at each site.

Grow Grass,