By Matt Cavanaugh, Sam Bauer, and Dr. Brian Horgan
How quickly things can change. Shorts and sandals are now the new theme on campus this week, which is engaging considering we experienced overnight lows below zero just last Friday. It is always interesting to discuss the weather in Minnesota. Snow fall last winter totaled around 70 inches of with the average being 54 inches. As of March 6th, MSP airport has only had 27 inches of snow compared to 40 inches seen in Lexington, Kentucky this season. It would we a crazy spring if we are to hit the averages. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Minnesota is considered to be abnormally dry with a few counties considered to be in a moderate drought (Cass, Hubbard, Wadena, Norman, Clay, Wilkin). Eastern North Dakota is seeing the same, but most of Wisconsin has seen adequate moisture this winter. With all that being said, we are heading into a week that forecast highs in the 50’s and low 60’s which will initiate the plants deacclimation process, the breaking from dormancy. Much like the shorts and sandals would suggest.
In the updates below from Superintendents around Minnesota, Eastern North Dakota and Western Wisconsin, you will notice a theme of early snow, a December and January thaw and then cold temperatures with little snow cover through February which has prompted thoughts of desiccation issues.
The general timeline looks like this for most of the region:
- First significant snow: November 10-12.
- Prolonged high temperatures:
- December 11-16th with temperatures ranging from 32 to 50 during this period.
- December 21-27th with temperatures ranging from 32 to 40 during this period.
- January 23-29th with temperatures ranging from 32 to 44 during this period.
- February 2015 was the 14th coldest on record statewide.
Metro Area: Roseville and Edina
Mike Manthey at Midland Hills Country Club has reported minimal snow cover of about 1-2 inches at the end of February and some ice on low spots in his fairways, but this is only a few weeks old and nothing clear or very solid. Due to the lack of snow cover, Mike does anticipate some desiccation on higher/exposed fairways and surrounds, but little ice damage at this point. During the two warm ups in December and January, Mike and his crew did remove water that had collected on top of the greens where he uses GreenJackets. The other greens are covered with Excelsiors and the extended days of warmth allowed for all the water to move off or through the greens where Excelsiors are used. Mike has been using some antidessicant products, and will consider adding more fairways and surrounds into the program next year depending on the damage seen this spring.
Brandon Schindele at Edina Country Club has also reported only about 1 inch of snow on most of the course at the end of February, but does not have any ice on the playing surfaces. Moisture from the December and January thaws either drained off or infiltrated into the soil. Brandon does not use any kind of cover on his greens. Temperature sensors in greens (at 3 inches) in December were showing readings as high as 36, but have generally been in the mid to low 20’s with a low around 10. Fairways were more consistent with temperatures generally in the high 20’s until February when they began to drop due to the colder temperatures and lack of snow cover.
North Shore: Silver Bay and Duluth
Norma O’Leary at Silver Bay Golf Course has reported 6 to 8 inches of snow cover at the end of February. Norma is also seeing .25 to .50 inches of ice cover on most turf surfaces. Core samples were taken on February 3rd with those plugs growing out nicely. Norma has, over the past 10 years, used Excelsior covers, but has seen less than stellar results the past few years. This year she changed it up a little and covered half the greens with Excelsiors and the other half with sand. We will be interested to see the differences between the Excelsior covered greens and the topdressed greens. Keep us posted Norma.
Jake Ryan at Northland Country Club has reported 0 to 6 inches of snow cover at the end of February. Jake is seeing some ice on fairways, but little on greens. With the lack of snow cover Jake is seeing, he is expecting prominent desiccation and a slow green up this spring. Jake covered his greens with Excelsiors and the turf under the mat is looking much better than any of the exposed putting areas and is happy they are using covers this year.
Brainerd Lakes: Deerwood
Joe Wollner at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge has reported very little snow cover with 4-5 inches at the end of February. As much as 50% of the greens were open before the most recent snow. Like other areas in Northern Minnesota, Joe has also indicated around .25 inches of ice since mid-December.
Northwest Minnesota/Eastern North Dakota: Oxbow and Grand Forks, ND
David Wood at Oxbow Country Club has reported only 2 inches of sporadic snow cover with ice on low spots in the fairways and on most greens since the end of December. Due to conditions this year, David will consider using more antidessicant next year.
Sam Reznicek at Grand Forks County Club also has experienced very little snow cover after starting out the winter season early with a few inches of snow in early November. A mid-December thaw had most of that snow melt leaving some sporadic ice cover. A few more inches fell before an additional mid-January thaw which then left quite a bit of ice on most surfaces at Grand Forks Country Club. There has been very little snow cover after the January thaw with plenty of overnight lows -15 to -20⁰F. Sam has pulled a few plugs to bring indoors which resulted in the bentgrass growing, but no response from the poa. Sam topdressed greens with about 15 tons/acre of sand (not brushed in), but Sam feels that this may be hurting him in some areas where the freezing rain in mid-December froze some of the heavier sand spots and turned it into a thicker ice layer. This ice may not have formed if the thicker spots were not there. Late February snow cover ranged from 5-7 inches, but sand is still blowing out of most of his bunkers (love those North Dakota winds).
Southeast Minnesota: Lake City
Doug Mahal at The Jewel Golf Club has reported minimal snow cover at the end of February; a dusting on the high areas to around 6 inches on the low areas. Doug has not seen any ice cover yet and scouting would indicate little winter damage at this time. Doug uses covers on 9 of his most exposed greens which this year he expects to see some benefit from.
Central Minnesota: St. Cloud
Gary Deters at St. Cloud Country Club through February has had around 1-3 inches of snow with ice in the low spots of fairways, but a very low percentage. Gary saw an initial 12 inches of snow the second week of November vanish quickly with a December thaw and two significant rainfalls on December 15th and 22nd that required him and the crew to remove water from a couple of greens. Thankfully his greens are mostly clear of ice with a few exceptions of low spots which could have been worse if the temperatures dropped quickly after the rain. Gary uses permeable Evergreen covers and due to the open winter is glad to be using them. After seeing 12 inches of snow melt quickly in combination of two large December rains, Gary has seen the greens at their worst which has allowed him to identify areas that hold water.
Western Minnesota: Alexandria
Donnacha O’Connor at Alexandria CC through February has reported 2-4 inches of snow on most of the course. Turf is brown/tan, but he has found very little ice and any ice that is there is honeycombed. He has taken several plugs which are looking good. Donnacha usually covers 11 greens with GreenJackets, but did not this year due to lack of hardening off prior to snow fall and felt the system was too active to seal it up with the GreenJackets.
Western Wisconsin: Eau Claire
Adam Murphy at Wild Ridge Golf Course and Mill Run Golf Course at the end of February has 6 inches or less of snow and reports around 25% of the course is exposed, but does not have any ice cover. With the December warm up, Adam and the crew did have to move water off of 3 greens, but has seen no water issues since. Adam does not use any covers, but is a little concerned about crown hydration due to the December moisture and warm up.
Through these updates we do see a line of where a little ice formed and where it did not. It looks like St. Cloud and North saw some of their moisture freeze during these thaws, but South of that saw much of the moisture either runoff or infiltrate into the soil. A nice representation of winter desiccation is visible out at the research facility which shows how different a little snow cover can have on turf colors in the spring (Picture 1). Most of the USGA greens at the research facility were also frost free which will allow us to take some samples this week for the wetting agent study and winter injury.
Picture 1: Rainout shelter on March 9th, 2015 at TROE kept the snow off this plot area all winter long. The plot to the left had snow cover all year long. What a difference.