Saturday, April 22, 2017

Insect Armageddon, Hipsters, ABDubs & The Possibility of Tall Fescue?

I had this awful thought on the way into work the other morning.  What if insects were to blame for the end of human existence?  Forget about robots with artificial intelligence taking over Terminator style, the ozone layer breaking down, or God forbid, our dickhead president * and that husky North Korean finally deciding to cross swords and blow our futile lives into oblivion.  If I was a betting man (sometimes I am depending on the game) I'd place my pittance of a life's savings on those goddamn bugs.  Perhaps you think I'm nuts for coming up with such a far fetched notion, but when you're preparing to battle someone to the death over a can of Spaghettios because insects have totally ravaged our planet, I really hope your final thought is, "Damn, the Walking Greenkeeper called it".  

If you haven't already guessed, Annual Blue Grass Weevil season has kicked off in my part of the world, and forming strategies to eradicate these troublesome little jawns is all consuming.  It has consumed me to the point that I actually believe insects might be the death of us all.  Three years ago.....or perhaps four, maybe even's so hard to keep track....these irksome pests were nary a blip on my greenkeeping radar.   But just like skinny jeans, Vneck t-shirts, Sailor Jerry tattoos, and handlebar mustaches finagling there way onto the Delaware hipster scene via NYC (albeit 3 years too late),  so has the annual blue grass weevil.  Hipsters are pretty annoying, but let's face it...would you rather chat with a dude who has the skin color of a wraith about who the better Uncle Tupelo spin off band is (I choose Wilco over Son Volt) or would you prefer suiting up on a cold spring day to apply stinky ass Chlorpyrifos in hopes of snuffing out some ABDubs?  Tough choice, I know, but as much as I'd like to chat you up on how much I love, "A Ghost Is Born", I'm sorry, Magnus, but the spray rig is calling.

I had the unfortunate opportunity of beginning my tenure as the head greenkeeper at Newark Country Club during the start of the summer last season.  Everything was alright until around the mid stages of August.  I'm sure most greenkeepers located on the right coast want to totally forget the epic weather conditions that sometimes miserable broad, mother nature threw at us.   It was a pretty brutal August, and if I was crafty enough, I'd create some sort of killer graph to depict just how tenebrific (thanks thesaurus) conditions were.  However, I'm not so crafty with the graphing, so you'll just have to take my word for it. I don't know how it was for you, but for me personally, the month of August was totally beat.

The odd thing was, I honestly felt prepared, despite coming in on another greenkeeper's program mid season.   We had our share of nicks and scrapes, but nothing major, and as the mercury climbed into the mid 90's (low to mid 30's for you metric nerds)  I wasn't feeling all that bad.  In fact, I felt so confident, I rolled out for an extended weekend to the Finger Lakes region of New York for my wife's high school reunion.  The reunion was a blast, but when I arrived back to work the following Monday, the course looked entirely different from the one I left 72 hours prior....and not in a good way.  Our fairways were obliterated, and as I toured the course that morning, eating white knights* and throwing up coffee in my mouth, I was only comforted by what an old superintendent once told me.....


I'm telling you, if it wasn't for nicotine, and that wise old greenkeeper uttering those words to me during the infancy of my career, I most likely would've resorted to managing a WAWA*.  It was that debilitating.  Eventually I collected myself and began the process of diagnosing what the hell happened, and sure enough, the majority of the damage was inflicted by those pesky ABdubs.

Despite my attempts to be environmentally responsible, I'm not messing around with the annual bluegrass weevil this season.  If applying mercury would kill off generations of these nasty bugs, I'd consider it*.  It was that bad last year, and I'm not getting caught with my khakis down again.  I've already applied stinky ass Chlorpyrifos at 32oz./acre on all fine turf areas, and as I spoke with a fellow greenkeeper in my network about this latest insecticide app of mine,  he mentioned this little tidbit.

In my defense, I did inherit a crap load of this shite from the previous superintendent, and when your annual budget is just a hair over 400k (with 30k of that loot going towards lease payments for equipment)  did I really have another choice?  Anyway, another 13k of my budget is going towards suppressing ABDubs, and honestly....this irritates the shit out of me.

When this season is over,  I will be addressing our green committee with this idea....
  • we are not going to treat for ABW next season
  • we are going to let this ornery bug gorge on all the poa annua it desires
  • when they are finished grubbing down, we are going to seed with a different variety of turf
Basically my thought is to eliminate the host (poa annua), by investing in seed rather than an insecticide program that will continually cost the club 12k to 15k a year.  And no need to use glyphosphate or basamid to smoke the fairways.  I figure just shutting the water off, and letting those ABDuds party all season should do the trick at a substantially lower cost both financially and environmentally.

I haven't quite decided on what variety of turf I'm going to propose as a replacement.  The obvious choice is that old stand by, creeping bent, but I'm not quite convinced.  Bermuda is an option, but definitely comes with some baggage considering our club is in the heart of the transition zone.  But there's one variety I've been thinking on that might just work,  and I've literally been laughed at when I mention this turf type amongst my peers.....Turf Type Tall Fescue.   

Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha, Haha!!!!!

I'll explain why I think Tall Fescue might be a viable option on my next post.....

* I've just sentenced myself to Trump's Gulag...aka, Guantanamo with this remark.
* White Knights are Marlboro Lights and "eating" them is chain smoking.
*I would never consider using mercury
*WaWa is a chain of convenience stores in the the tri-state area of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Go crush a "classic" when you're visiting one of these fair states.

And Ive been ciggy free since December 6th, 2016!!!!!!!! 


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