Field Insights Blog | GreenCast | Syngenta
Field Insights Blog | GreenCast | Syngenta

Hurricanes and Turf

This past week or so, we have been shown the ravages of Hurricane Harvey through the eastern coastal region of Texas, and now we are looking at the potential devastation that Hurricane Irma could do to the Carribean region and eastern Florida.  Although attention is focused, and rightly so, on the survivors and loss of property, golf courses lie in the path of these hurricanes and can sustain damage.  From a turf perspective, warm season turgrasses like bermudagrass can survive extended water submersion almost indefinitely. 

Hurricane Charlie

Figure 1.  Hurricane Charlie

Research at Kansas State University has found most warm season turfgrasses can sustain water submersion, regardless of the water temperature beyond 55 days easily (except centipedegrass).  Additionally, warm season turfgrasses in general have good salt tolerance.  So there is time to assess the situation and plan for recovery.

The major damage comes from the silt and gunk that settles onto the turf.  This material has the potential to cause damage to the turf by clogging up the rootzone and sealing the surface.  As the water recedes, every possible effort should be made to remove any of the debris from the turf.  If sealing occurs intensive coring and topdressing should be done.

Hurricane Francis

Figure 2: Hurricane Frances

If turf loss occurs, before re-establishing, take a moment and have the soil tested or do a simple bioassay to detect any potential harmful chemicals that might have been deposited.  A simple bioassay is to take tomato seeds and plant them in a sample of the soil.  If the seeds germinate and the seedlings development is normal, this is an initial sign the soil is OK.   

Prior to the arrival of a hurricane treating the turf with a growth regulator like Primo Maxx® may reduce the need to mow a turf immediately following the hurricane.  This would be especially important in areas that remain water saturated or when considerable debris are present (Figure 2)  making mowing difficult.  For further or more detailed information see Hurricane Preparedness for Turf Managers.

About the author

Dr. Karl Danneberger is a professor of Turfgrass Science at The Ohio State University. Dr. Danneberger's contact information can be found here. You may also follow Dr. Danneberger on Twitter:

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