In a previous Blog post, we covered the critical role of turf managers in conservation, highlighting available tools including extension programs, online resources, pollinator gardens, and more. Missed it? Read it here. In this post, we’ll share the benefits of using native vs. exotic plants and take a deeper dive into conservation tactics available at the ground level to maintain a healthy and welcoming environment.
Superintendents and the Natural Habitat
Superintendents and turf managers are key thought leaders when it comes to conserving and protecting valuable resources. As urbanized areas continue to grow, golf courses can provide a safe haven for a myriad of native flora and fauna.
According to the University of Illinois, “a naturalized landscape that incorporates native grasses benefits biodiversity, saves costs on pesticides, and labor for a golf course.” Indigenous plants are better suited to their environment, and properly equipped to withstand potential environmental stresses including weather challenges, drought stress, and disease.
While exotic plants may add a scenic flare to an ecosystem, they struggle to resist these same strains. At the expense of beauty, they consume valuable nutrients, space, and water, leaving little room for the native species to flourish.
Incorporating native plants also helps gauge environmental health. Dying or suffering vegetation can be a key indicator that something isn’t right. Problems could stem from water quality, microbial shifts in the soil, or hydrophobic soil.
Conservation Tactics from The Ground Up
One of the largest obstacles superintendents face is how to remain environmentally conscious, yet profitable at the same time. While golf courses provide a haven for biodiversity, many challenges persist. The key is to remain observant.
Optimizing the use of water is a critical conservation tactic. Many turf experts rely on rain water from lakes, ponds, and streams to keep their playing surfaced and landscapes properly hydrated. Many golf facilities are also an outlet for effluent water—industrial wastewater—which after treatment is safe to reuse. By recycling effluent water, teams help reduce excess waste. However, it’s important to test water quality on a regular basis.
Frequent soil and water testing is invaluable, allowing superintendents to gain a better understanding of what’s happening at the ground level. Conducting regular plant analyses also establishes proper nutrition baselines, an essential first step to sustaining a healthy ecosystem. Understanding the soil can help superintendents and turf managers maximize their maintenance plan, conserve water, prevent ground water contamination, and reduce run-off.
Send several soil samples to a lab, as it may help determine if there’s an imbalance or potential microbial shift. To check for water repellency, drip water droplets onto dry soil—if the soil doesn’t absorb these within five seconds, the soil is hydrophobic, and the plants likely aren’t receiving enough water to survive. The use of a quality soil surfactant can help address that.
To help estimate potential soil surfactant expenditures and savings against a budget, download the Aquatrols Dispatch Calculator. This calculator can help determine the total water, energy, and monetary savings that a Dispatch Injectable program can produce over an entire season.
Be sure to communicate to leadership and golfers how much water and inputs were saved by your efforts.
In future Blog posts, we’ll explore how our team of scientists works to maximize an environment’s natural resources against the needs of the turf, plants, and surrounding landscapes.