For many, the dog days of summer signify a return to easy living; vacation at the beach, barbeque in the back yard, cold drinks by the camp fire and of course, golf! Summer is an amazing time of year to be on a golf course, I have logged many.
The warm temperatures bring about a variety of bustling life both plants and animals, all of which I enjoy seeing as I go about my work. However there is a life form that appears with the warm days and dewy nights that troubles me.
It lurks in the shadows unaware of its impacts. It is one that is both coveted and despised, one that creates and destroys, and one that most people do not even see! This life form is the fungus and it brings me both joy and stress in the dog days of summer.
What do you know about fungi? Not a question one hears very often… why would someone even ask that question? It’s not as if fungi are involved in our lives much. Occasionally we buy them at the store to eat or we see them along the forest floor as we walk about, but they are just there, doing nothing, right!? Of course the answer is fungi are an important part of our ecosystem, hard at work as the most abundant decomposer of plant material known to planet earth.
If you were to go out west…the dry west, where humidity is low and rainfall is sparse, you would notice something different about old fallen trees there…they don’t rot! Fungi don’t like places that are dry and sunny much; they prefer moist soils full of organic matter and dark places to hide from the light.
Have you ever seen where the mushrooms you buy in the grocery store are grown? You guessed it, a cave! Here in the northeast we are fungi rich, beginning in April and stretching through October fungi are furiously feasting on plant material, dead and alive.
As a superintendent it is important to understand the life cycle of fungi, for turf is not spared from its appetite. Though I battle fungi in my professional life, I cherish it in my personal one. I am a mushroom hunter, and it brings me great joy to discover fungi hard at work in their natural setting, for fungi are not only wondrous, they are delicious!
Did you know the white button top mushroom you buy in the grocery store is man made? It is part of the Agaricus family but has been bred by humans and has no exact replica in nature.
Did you know before the existence of fungi earth was known as the planet of the trees? Without fungi to decompose fallen trees they stacked up, year after year until they were buried by shifting landscapes. Now we call those deposits oil and coal!
If you are a golfer you probably know that we spray the turf, you may have even seen the sprayer, but you probably don’t know what is being sprayed. Much of the time when the sprayer is out a fungicide is being applied, sometimes two. In order to keep turf healthy, protective fungicides must be applied to keep our friend the fungi at bay.
As the seasons change so do the fungi, requiring a change in fungicide as there are many different fungi as well as fungicides. The process of predicting fungal outbreaks and planning sprays is on going through the season.
Though the sudden explosion of mushrooms after a June rain may seem surprising, fungi are not capricious by nature. On the contrary, fungi can be quite predictable if one knows what to look for. Year after year we spray to protect our turf from fungi and year after year the fungi return.
In the end we can only hope to suppress fungal infections for there will always be fungi present in the soil and there will always be turf that is infected by it. In a way, my professional affair with fungi is a humbling experience, for I am losing a battle I could never win to begin with.
Here are a few examples of turf damaged by fungus that you might see at Candia Woods
A great joke to tell all of your friends!
What did female mushroom say about male mushroom after their date? He was a fun-gi!