Thin Turf on Fairways and other Turfed Areas
One of our challenges throughout the year or more specifically the wetter months is worms or to be more specific worm casts which are the organic soil they leave deposited on the surface. Although worms are very beneficial to the soil ecosystem and aeration of soils it is not beneficial to the game of golf or any other activity conducted on turf. The deposits left on the surface are a make up of extremely fine pasty material similar to clay or chalk which is not suitable to grow healthy turf. This deposit material will cover and suffocate the turf and creates bumpy or uneven soil covered areas throughout the golf course. Traffic and machinery over these sites squeeze and compress the casts and create large sand dollar soil spots which can cover over 50 percent of the surface area.
As there are no pesticides registered for worms it make it very difficult to defend against the aggressive tilling of the soil they naturally do. Studies have shown that sand top dressing will discourage worm activity due to its abrasiveness and also some fungicides work like a shield as we see on the green and tees where theses products are used. The expense to spray multiple applications to large acreage with these fungicides can be very high. Worms prefer sites with moist conditions and organic soils which is why we have a far greater number per acre than other clubs or sites with less desirable conditions for worm activity. According to research depending on soil quality, there can be anywhere from 250,000 to 1.75 million earthworms per acre. Earthworms can consume about ½ to 1 times their body weight every day and can process about 10 pounds of organic material per year. Earthworms breathe through their skin which is why they surface after heavy rains or at night and early mornings when dew is present.
We are experimenting with different ways to suppress or discourage worm activity on the golf course. Reducing their numbers and activity will greatly help in turf health and vigor for better playing conditions year round.