Data from the Irrigation Institute shows that updating your outdated irrigation system may improve irrigation efficiency by 13%. Anecdotal evidence suggests that raising the height of cut and performing cultural practices, such as spiking, improve the penetration of rainfall and irrigation, and help turfgrass to survive drought.
Managing water inputs in drought conditions
As of July 24, 2012, the U.S. Drought Monitor map showed greater than 80% of the United States experiencing conditions from abnormally dry (D0) to exceptional drought (D4), causing turf managers to work diligently in order to maintain adequate playing surfaces.
Meanwhile, a study by the United States Geological Survey estimates that 128 billion gallons of fresh water are used in the United States for irrigation, every day. While the agriculture industry accounts for 102 billion gallons of that amount, golf courses use 2 billion gallons daily. Because fresh water is a limited resource, competition for its use is fierce, and the public’s awareness of irrigation is high. The result is that, today, golf course superintendents are expected to produce high-quality playing surfaces using fewer water inputs.
Data from the Irrigation Institute shows that updating your outdated irrigation system may improve irrigation efficiency by 13 percent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that raising the height of cut and performing cultural practices, such as spiking, improve the penetration of rainfall and irrigation, and help turf grass to survive drought.
Another tool superintendents are using to increase turf survival is soil surfactants. Three years of replicated research by Dr. Keith Karnok, conducted at the University of Georgia, proved that the use of a soil surfactant improved irrigation efficiency by up to 50 percent.
Not all surfactants are the same. Some are designed to reduce the surface tension of water, improving infiltration through thatch and into dry soils. Other surfactant chemistries attach to organic matter in the root zone, providing hydration for extended periods of time. Both infiltration and hydration surfactants can be tank mixed, or they may be combined by the manufacturer in ready-to-use products.
When the climate shifts to cooler, wetter conditions, turf managers can continue the same cultural practices, in combination with soil surfactants, to help their turf recover from drought stress and rebuild carbohydrate reserves.
Fresh water is a limited resource, and competition for it will continue to grow, increasing the importance of smart water management. A plan that combines proper mowing and cultural practices with the use of today’s advanced soil surfactants is proven to be the most effective and environmentally friendly way to maintain the quality of playing conditions and to conserve water.
Written by Don Spier, who is an agronomist, former golf course superintendent, and the vice president of turf business development at Precision Laboratories. www.precisionlab.com.