An update from the Course   – Fusarium – end April 2019

A number of members have asked recently about damage to some greens.

What is the problem ?

What we are seeing is a disease attack called Fusarium.  Fusarium patch is the most common disease on Irish golf courses; a severe attack can leave disfiguring scars that will affect the playing quality of putting surfaces. Fusarium is a fungal infection of turf, caused by the fungus Microdochium nivale.

Fusarium is spread by wind, water, wheels and by foot traffic. It is during periods of mild cool wet weather and heavy dews that an outbreak of the disease takes place. Attacks appear during late autumn and through the winter.

Fusarium starts as small orange to red-brown circular spots 1-2 cm in diameter. If left unmanaged the patches increase in size and in the worst case situations, the entire surface of a green can be affected. When the fungus is particularly active, the patches have a brown ring at the outer edge. 

Fusarium Patches – What Are They?

Golf Greens are susceptible to Fusarium when the soil surface remains wet during prolonged periods of wet cool weather. Infected turf will recover when the plant becomes more active in the spring and is able to produce new healthy leaves restoring its vigour and colour. Our holes 13 -15,  which have been affected the most, are in sheltered areas and therefore more susceptible to attack.

The Fusarium fungus resides in the thatch of the green and is always present. You can’t exclude thatch and nor would you want to. Naturally occurring thatch at an appropriate depth and uniformity provides a natural resilience which contributes to the speed and consistency of play. It also acts as a singularly significant ‘recycling bin’ for natural nutrients (including nitrogen), released from decomposing organic matter and returned to the living grass plant tissue through the fibrous root system.

So, Fusarium requires constant monitoring and control. It is always there on every golf green waiting to strike!

Enough technical stuff, What are we doing about it ?

A twofold approach is adopted Prevention and Cure. 

Prevention… is a balance of continuing to remove the dew from the greens at every opportunity and increasing drainage and aeration. This is the right activity but many green keepers regard this as the equivalent of King Canute trying to hold back the waves.  Management of pin positions is also important particularly where greens are partially attacked. 

Cure… is the successful application of chemicals to manage the disease. However, chemical use has been reduced in recent years as products have been taken off the marketplace. There has also been an increase in disease resistance due to the over reliance on specific groups of fungicides. Therefore, it is useful to adopt a strategic approach when utilising fungicides to derive the best use for what is a relatively expensive resource.

It is important to note that the disease is always present. It happens every year, it just needs to be managed carefully.   

Having said all that, the best prevention and cure actions may not always solve the problem and as stated above, the Fusarium thatch is always present.

The good news is that the greens will fully recover during the spring as the growing season gets into to top gear supported by seeding. 

On the 1st May, staff over-seeded scars on holes 13 -16 to assist with the natural healing process.

It is testament to our Course Manager Dave, and his team, that we have not been completely over run with the disease.  Each year in autumn, the team prepares for Fusarium attacks.  Most members don’t notice the problem and therefore are not aware of all the effort that is put in by Dave and the team to control Fusarium.

As somebody said, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail !”

It is unfortunate that the disease is a little more noticeable this year but on the other hand, we are fortunate not to have suffered more.  Reports indicate that very severe attacks have occurred in other less fortunate clubs where whole greens have been affected.

John Curran,

Course Chairman