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ICE BREAKER Reducing the agronomic and economic impact of ice damage on golf courses and other grasslands

Alternative title: Tiltak for mindre vinterskader på grunn av isdekke og smeltevann på golfbaner og andre grasarealer

Awarded: NOK 4.6 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2020 - 2023

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Impermeable plastic covers prevent ice damage on golf greens. On sand-based greens the risk for too low oxygen (O2) or too high carbon dixoide (CO2) levels is small with cover periods up to 120 days. Oxygen is higher and CO2 lower with a plastic cover between grass and ice than with ice directly on the grass. Wireless temperature and gas-sensors can be helpful to determine the need for ventilation under the plastic covers. Ice and water damage and following problems with reestablishment is common on Norwegian golf courses and in agriculture. The objective of ICE BREAKER is to prepare greenkeepers and farmers for a more unstable winter climate. The Norwegian Golf Federation has, together with the research foundation STERF, 7Sense Technologies, and four golf clubs, commissioned NIBIO and US and Swedish partners to carry out the project. ICE-BREAKER includes six work-packages (WPs) with the following subgoals: 1)Screen turfgrass cultivars for tolerance to hypoxia, i.e. low O2 (and high CO2) levels; 2)Explore if plastic covers or snow/ice removal during the entire or parts of the winter will prevent ice and water damage or if the grass will suffer from hypoxia; (3)Evaluate if sensors can used to determine if ice layers ought to be crushed or there is a need for ventilation under the plastic covers; 4)Explore if free oxygen radicals impair photosynthesis when newly seeded grass or grass that has been under ice is exposed to normal O2 levels at low temperature and high light intensity, and if such damage can be avoided by the use of shade covers in spring; 5) Identify growth inhibiting substances than can be formed on ice-covered greens and explore means to eliminate these substances before reseeding; 6)Evaluate creeping bentgrass cultivars, tarps and biostimulants for faster reestablishment of greens killed by ice. The winter 2020-21/spring 2021 was the first experimental season in the project. WP1: On 1 Dec. 2020, 1 cm thick disc samples were taken from 35 cultivars on a green at NIBIO Landvik. The samples were vacuum-sealed and kept in darkness at 0.5°C. After 5-11 weeks (red fescues) and 7-13 weeks (bents), the discs were split into plantlets and potted in trays to determine survival. Chewings fescue had better tolerance to anoxia than slender creeping red fescue. The best red fescue cultivar was 'Lykke'. Of the bents, only 'Nordlys'(velvet bent) survived more than 50% after 7 weeks. During the winter 2021-22, the trial will be repeated with 5-11 weeks? exposure period in all species. WP2 and 3: A new green with creeping bent, red fescue and annual bluegrass was established at NIBIO Apelsvoll in 2020. During the winter plots were subjected to treatments such as: a (man-made) ice cover in direct contact with the grass; ice cover with a plastic sheet over a spring tarp between the ice and the grass; and various timing of snow and ice removal during winter. Plastic cover gave the least damage in all species and this was confirmed in trials on four golf courses which also showed no need for ventilation if the cover period was less than 120 days. WP4: Parallel trials with four creeping bentgrass cultivars were conducted in spring 2021 in Minneapolis (45°N), at NIBIO Landvik (58°N) and at NIBIO Holt (70°N). Pots with 3-wk old plants were brought outside and covered with cloths that reduced the light intensity by 50 or 90% in addition to an uncovered control. Temperature, light intensity, chlorophyll fluorescence and seedling growth were recorded. Results at all sites and for all cultivars showed low photosynthetic efficiency (light stress) in seedlings exposed to full sunlight at low temperatures. The highest growth rate was found in 50% shade. In 2022 these results will be validated for grass that has been covered by ice during the winter. WP5: Creeping bentgrass and red fescue greens with a thick thatch layer were covered by ice during the winter at Apelsvoll. Creeping bentgras died but red fescue survived 45%. Just after ice melt, 3 cm deep core samples with dead turf were centrifuged and the extract frozen for analyses of growth inhibitors and impact on germination. In the field trial, plots that had been under ice were aerated or flushed 3 times with 60 mm water before re-seeding. Both treatments enhanced growth of the surviving red fescue, but soil temperature was more important than inhibitors for reestablishment from seed. WP6: The potential of textile tarps or biostimulants to enhance creeping bentgrass grow-in from seed at low temperature was tested in parallel trials in Massachusetts and at Landvik. Grow-in was faster with ?Evergreen? than with white tarps. Gibberellic acid delayed establishment in both trials, but Primo Maxx (trinexapac-ethyl) tended to have a positive effect at Landvik. A separate trial comparing creeping bentgrass cultivars for reestablishment of a winter-killed green in Sweden showed 'Luminary' and 'Pure Select' to establish faster than 'Independence'.

Winter damage due to Ice Encasement (IE), melting water and subsequent problems with reestablishment is a recurring problem on Norwegian golf courses and agricultural grasslands. In 2018 the average revenue loss due to IE amounted to 420 kNOK om 18-hole golf courses in SE Norway. Climate change with fluctuating winter temperatures seems to exacerbate these problems in regions that previously had stable winters. In this project we will prepare greenkeepers and other grassland managers for unstable winters through increased knowledge about the impact of ice and melting water and improved strategies for winter management and reestablishment of winter-damaged grasslands in spring. NIBIO researchers will, together with experts from 2 US universities and one Swedish expert on sowing machines for reestablishment, address these challenges through 6 interrelated work-packages: (1) Development of a laboratory method to screen grass cultivars for LDIE50 (Lethal Duration of IE for 50% of plants) including a first ranking of 30 grass cultivars commonly used on golf courses; (2&3) Field trials at NIBIO and on golf courses in which wireless temperature and CO2/O2 sensors and/or impermeable plastic sheets are installed before ice formation, and snow and ice are removed at various times during winter; (4) Lab. and field trials using advanced equipment to determine the risk for photoinhibition due to the formation of Reactive Oxygen Species after ice melt/removal; (5) Field and lab. trials in which toxic substances developing in grasses of various species and of various ages under ice are quantified, implications for reestablishment assessed and methods to get rid of the substances tested; and (6) pot and on-course field trials with bentgrass cultivars, seed treatments and sowing machines for faster reestablishment at low soil temperature after ice damage. The project will emphasize technology transfer through demonstrations, videos, fact sheets and popular and scientific articles.

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