Tuesday, November 23, 2010
One of the joys of the fall season, other than cooler temperatures, is witnessing the change of foliage on the golf course from green to yellow to orange and sometimes to red. Cooler temperatures are often accredited with this beautiful transformation, but another, more significant factor is at work here. The process by which trees shed their leaves is complex, but the reason for this occurrence can basically be attributed to shorter days, or reduced sunlight.
If you remember your high school biology, leaves are green because they contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a green pigment which helps plants carry out photosynthesis. As days become shorter and the amount of available sunlight decreases, trees no longer have the need to produce or keep so much chlorophyll in their leaves. When days get shorter trees use a hormone called ethylene to start withdrawing chlorophyll from their leaves. A second group of pigments, carotenoids, get left behind. Carotenoids are yellow pigments which are present year-round, but are usually hidden by chlorophyll. So, as chlorophyll is taken out of the leaves, they take on the yellowed appearance of carotenoids.
Not all leaves stop at yellow. Some turn orange, or even red. This additional coloring is the result of the presence of yet a third group of pigments called anthocyanins. This set of pigments serves a couple of purposes. First, while the tree is busy removing chlorophyll and other hormones and nutrients from its leaves, it is pretty vulnerable to damage from the sun. Anthocyanins act as a type of sunscreen, allowing the tree to get ready for winter without taking too much damage. Anthocyanins are more often found in trees that prefer colder climates, furthering the belief that they act as protection from the sun. It is also believed that yellow leaves attract aphids, so trees have adapted to prevent this attack by turning their leaves red.
So there you have it! A hormonal response to shorter days gives us one of the most spectacular natural events that occur. Enjoy it while it lasts, miss it while it’s gone, and rest easy knowing we’ll see it again!
This article is contributed by Chris Lare, Assistant Superintendent
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Did you ever wonder why I take the bales of straw used for fall clubhouse decorations and place them along the shores of our irrigation pond on #12?
Barley straw, as it decomposes, releases certain compounds that inhibit the growth of algae. It does not kill algae that is already present, but prevents new algae cells from forming, which is why its best to get it in the water before algae becomes an existing problem.
The breakdown of the straw also nourishes populations of “good” bacteria that help keep the water clean by eating up excess nutrients and pollutants.
Barley straw does not work in all instances – success depends on the pH of the water and the presence of dissolved oxygen. Luckily, our water pH is close to perfect, and we place the bales along the shores because the wave action there oxygenates the water.
They might look a bit out of place, but these bales help keep our irrigation water clean, and are a great alternative to risky aquatic herbicides which would negatively impact the turf that receives this water as irrigation.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
As the weather continues to offer us cooler temperatures, frost delays become more common. Frost occurs when ice forms on the outside and inside of the turf plant. Ice on the outside is what we see, but the ice on the inside – frozen plant cells – is our worry. Pressure applied to frozen cells damages and breaks the cell membrane. Later, when the cell thaws, the cell fluids leak out, causing death of the cell. Unfortunately, in most cases, all the cells of the plant’s above ground parts are killed this way, and the plant cannot recover.
Sometimes it’s hard to be patient, especially when you’ve waited all week to get a round in, but it's one of those things that we cannot control or change. Maybe take the time during a delay to enjoy another cup of coffee, have breakfast, and talk with your friends…it might just make your day a bit better after all!
The USGA has a great animated explanation of frost delays in the link below.