Localised Dry Patch (LDP) is a condition that causes turf to become hydrophobic (water repellent).
Once LDP has taken hold, irrigation simply causes the unaffected areas to get lusher while the LDP affected areas get drier. This exacerbates the problem making the green increasingly frustrating to play on.
Soil sampling will reveal powder dry soil. Unsightly brown patches of turf start to spread over most of the green. The turf on these areas recedes causing a bumpy surface and in most cases the weakened grass will be taken over by moss. But what can be done to cure the problem?
Research shows that fungi can contribute to the onset of this problem. Fungal mycelium may coat individual soil particles making it impossible for water to adhere to them.
Thatch control and irrigation management are the two most critical factors in the management of this problem.
By the time the problem is visually evident it is already too late to achieve an effective cure. This is because the problem is inherent in the green and usually only becomes visible at the height of the season.
Irrigation management requires an understanding of Water Balance in the soil and this is detailed in Performance Bowling Greens. Just look at the infra-red thermographic image on the left, it shows an infrared image of a bowling green. The red areas show the extra heat that is being kicked out by the LDP affected areas, and that is directly related to the lack of moisture retained in the soil in these areas. In the standard photo, the LDP is barely noticeable at this stage, but will get steadily worse.
Frequently we are now seeing that areas affected by dry patch disorders have suffered a complete depletion of moisture and that the soil structure has failed, turning to powder. Traditional wetting agents have sought to address dry patch from a very limited viewpoint, namely the reduction of water surface tension making it easier for water to be attracted and held around individual soil particles.
Although Wetting Agents can be used to good effect on LDP once dry patch has progressed to what we call breaking point, no amount of simple surfactant wetting agent will help it re-wet sufficiently to ensure a full recovery of the turf with full grass cover. Typically the manager has to wait for the turf to over-winter before full grass cover is returned.
This makes it all the more critical that we ensure that the products we use are effective in both results and cost.
As LDP is a disorder within the soil it is important to keep one eye on re-wetting and one on re-building the soil’s health. This can best be achieved by ensuring that you use a wetting agent product which can supply carbohydrates to the soil in addition to their soil re-wetting properties. The addition of a high volume of Carbohydrates ensures that the products also contribute to the maintenance of soil structure while helping stressed grass plants hang on to life for longer while the soil is re-wetting.
Excessive use of sand on bowling greens over the years has been the single biggest influence on the occurrence of LDP.
More on the causes and management of LDP here.