Turfgrass management is all about making the best decisions at the best time to the precise areas of turf that need attention. The alternative to not sampling regularly is to either do it the way you have always done it, or to react to symptoms that you see on the turf's surface or maybe beneath the surface as you cut cups or pull a knife plug out of the soil. These symptoms are the results of some condition that has been building for some time. This time period can be days, weeks or even months...with the most chronic of which taking more than one season to develop. A fine example of this is related to the development of a new USGA specification putting green. The ONLY time that this turf is uniform and the reactions and performance beneath the surface are uniform is at grow in (assuming you are doing so from seed and now sod which brings in another set of issues which too can be 'seen' by monitoring).
One of the reasons why some may feel they don't have time to monitor or 'sample' their turf is due to users not knowing how simple and quick it is to do so. On average, it take less than 2 minutes to sample an average size putting green and less than 12 minutes to sample a sports field. Imagine if you could see a doctor every day and have a simple test done to know you are healthy from head to toe. Imagine how many times we would beat the illnesses that bring our bodies down. Turf is no different. Ironically, when we do get sick or in the event we get very sick, we suddenly start to monitor our bodies, our eating habits our sleep and more all so that we know what is best for our bodies at that time. And further, we wish we had more time to have done the right things before we got sick.
In turfgrass management, reacting to conditions is far more inefficient and time consuming than taking the time to monitor in the first place. An apple a day keeps the doctor away is a simple reference to meaning take some time to take care of yourself and avoid needing to get critical care later. Well, 2 minutes a day will keep many things away such as wasted labor hours chasing a symptom, or using unnecessary chemicals and plant protectant products for a condition that may otherwise not develop had we known it was coming a long way off.
Let's take one common ailment in turfgrass management. Black Layer. It is found on nearly every turf plot at some point or another...some worse than others. Think about how it forms. Microbes need oxygen just like any other organisms. When we starve our turf system of free diluted oxygen in the soil solution, these microbes in the soil steal oxygen from metal sulfate compounds like Iron sulfate, Magnesium sulfate and Manganese sulfate. Once they steal this Oxygen, Sulfide precipitates are left behind. These are small, black particles that clog pore space in the rootzone. This leads to a black appearance that grows and grows, all the while leading to less available oxygen to the turf. It is not the sulfate that causes the black layer. It is the lack of oxygen. This lack of oxygen began LONG before the black layer showed up.
Now think about what goes into remedying the black layer issue. Core cultivation or vertical mowing must be employed to remove the black layer. That is an average of 4 laborers for 4 hours per green including the coring, core removal, sand application, rolling and watering. This equates to 16 total labor hours per average putting green.
Now consider the set back in playability and the discredit from the membership for the frustration of having to remedy something that was entirely preventable. the cost of that can be endless if it leads to less satisfaction of your hard work and responsibility.
Other similar actions that taking a little time to monitor with POGO will improve efficiency include:
- Taking excessive time to set up irrigation programs and station adjustments by using symptom observations rather than seeing the specific needs of the turf from the turf's perspective using POGO
- Taking time to apply a pesticide or plant protective product application unnecessarily due to carrying more moisture in the rootzone than is absolutely necessary. FACT: The average turf zone throughout the turf industry is maintained with 16% to 38% moisture (by volume) above its optimum level which equates to overwatering by 44% or more!
- Having staff do tasks that you feel may be necessary simply due to this always being the way you did it rather than having the specific information you need to focus your staff's attention where it is needed most
- Taking more time unnecessarily to communicate what you see on the course with staff, colleagues, superiors, members and players rather than having everyone in sync for conditions as the turfgrass sees them
- Managing salts and other issues related to quality of water by knowing exactly when they are present to the level needing attention rather than reacting to symptoms in the turf or by a calendar interval that may or may not be timed optimally
- Being able to walk the line closest to turf's highest performance level with little risk you are going too far over the line rather than risking going over the line and seeing your turf decline. Turf that is on the line almost to the brink of declining performs the best for the game of golf in particular. In sports turf, turf that trained to the level of stress that withstands surface play is very similar. Walking this line is the art of managing turf to the best of its ability. Monitoring turf consistently allows us to know where we are in relation to that line at any moment in time. The little time it takes to measure our turf's condition with POGO GREATLY offsets the large amount of time it will take to reverse a declining or deteriorated condition.
- Employing labor with actions in areas that may be unnecessary rather than focusing specific labor and actions where they are needed to build uniformity in turf performance. Turf is rarely uniform in its needs from one end of a zone to another. So why would the practices we employ on it be expected to be any different? The only way to make efficient use of labor, products and actions is to take a little time daily to measure what the turf is feeling. That is what POGO does.
- It takes far less time to take POGO samples than it does to react to any condition whatsoever. Seeing a condition that requires attention means you are too late in understanding what caused the condition. The latter takes far more time and results in using more labor, products and attention than the little time it would have taken to measure the turf's condition with POGO ahead of time.