Unusual Turf Problems

Due to the severe drought, at the end of this week (16th of May), Auckland golf courses that use town supply as their water source for irrigating their turf and completing other course maintenance will need to stop using that water source – irrigation will not be allowed. This does not apply to clubhouse supplies.

It is important to view this in the right perspective – this could have happened at a much worse time (summer) and have been immediately devastating.

That won’t be the case now – in the immediate future this water use ban is unlikely to cause any major problems on golf courses because rainfall in the region is now sufficient to meet plant requirements. For most turf areas, irrigation simply isn’t needed at this time of year. Since the 1st of May in Auckland there has been 56mm of rain and the plant water use (“evapotranspiration”) has been 26mm. So there is still at least 15 days water supply in the soil. Soil moisture levels should remain at least adequate as more frequent rain and an even lower evapotranspiration rate occur.

But right now Golf Course Superintendents have just a few days during which they can use their irrigation system before it gets shutdown for an indefinite period – what should you be doing while you can?


1. Check moisture levels in critical areas such as greens.

Use a moisture meter or failing that take a soil samples to check the moisture content. If the soil profile is uniformly moist throughout the full rooting depth then no irrigation is required. If using a Fieldscout Moisture Meter like this, typically you are looking for a moisture content in the 20-30% range.

If your profile is dry (<20%), then watering is recommended to increase the moisture content. Keep an eye on the weather forecast – if it doesn’t look like rain will do it for you, irrigate.

2. Re-wet known dry patch areas

When checking soil moisture levels, concentrate onthese areas to see if recent rainfall has re-wetted them.

If they remain dry use these next few days to re-wet them. A combination of shallow spiking, penetrant wetting agent application and repeated hand watering is recommended.

3. Wetting agent application

Consider applying a wetting agent to manage any surface crusting and improve infiltration of rain in areas that are only slowly recovering from the drought.These are areas that you might want to irrigate to hasten recovery but you are not going to have that option for much longer.

4. Apply a systemic fungicide to critical areas such as greens

The basis for this recommendation is that strictly speaking you may not even have the option of using water for filling spray tanks and cleaning machinery. If
that is the case you will need to organize a separate water source for that. In the interim use the water supply while you can.

5. Fertiliser applications

If you have fertilizer applications planned that need irrigation to wash in you might want to advance them to this week. After this week you will be relying on coinciding fertilizer applications with rainfall to wash the fertilizer in.

Here we have provided recommendations for things that may be relevant for you in the very
immediate future. Following on from this we will provide additional advisory notes for things that
you will need to do in the medium and longer term as we face up to what could be a severe and
protracted water shortage. The only consolation is that the timing is good – you have some time to
plan and implement actions ahead of the next irrigation season.

For any turf and training related queries, talk to the team at NZ Sports Turf Institute.