Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Frost occurs when temperatures approach 32 degrees, freezing the dew upon the plant surface and more importantly, the water that is present inside the plants’ cells. The expanding pressure of the freezing water inside the cell stretches the cell membrane, and subsequently the membrane loses all of its elasticity and resiliency that enable it to withstand outside forces such as foot traffic, etc. In this state, the membrane cannot absorb impact or stretch and re-conform to pressure, so it breaks, causing the cell fluid to leak after thawing, killing the cell completely. If enough cells are affected, the whole turf plant will die, and if enough plants are affected, large areas of turf, whether it is greens, tees, fairways, or rough, can be killed.
An easy way to understand this phenomenon is to imagine a water balloon. The balloon skin is elastic, flexible, and can easily supply generous “give” to forces exerted upon it. But when the balloon is frozen, the skin is stretched by the expansion of water as it turns to ice, and it becomes thin, rigid, and brittle, unable to flex against outside pressures. Its only “give” is to break
By delaying play until the frost is gone and the temperatures moderate, we give time to allow the plant cells to thaw and the cell membranes to regain their original elastic qualities that enable them to withstand traffic.