It’s Spring! Time to Plan for Pollinators

Spring is a great time to consider adding native plants to your facility to create additional habitat for pollinators and review the availability of nesting sites for these species.

Established Wildflower Area

Pollinator habitat on the golf course includes both areas planted specifically with pollinators in mind and existing out-of-play areas. One of the most effective BMPs for protecting water quality also protects pollinator habitat, i.e., leaving a low- or no-management buffer strip around water courses and bodies of water.

To add habitat for pollinators, add a diversity of blooming plants of different colors and heights that blossom throughout the entire growing season. Native plants are best, proving the most nutritious food source for native pollinators. Even plants we consider weeds provide important habitat. For example, milkweed is a food source for monarch caterpillars. Monarchs in the Rough, a program sponsored by Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund, can provide you with regionally appropriate milkweed seeds to restore monarch butterfly habitat in out-of-play areas.

In addition to food, pollinators need places to nest. Simple efforts can increase nesting sites, such as leaving stems and coarse, woody debris and leaving exposed patches of well-drained soil, or by creating nesting areas such as wooden nesting boxes for hole nesting bees.

For more information on nest site plans and native plants species for pollinators see:

Best Management Practices

  • Utilize native species when renovating out-of-play areas.
  • Choose flowers of different shapes, sizes, and colors.
  • Choose species that bloom at different times of the year.
  • Include both perennials and annuals in native plant areas.
  • Choose south-facing sites whenever possible for establishing native areas.
  • Leave stems and coarse, woody debris in native areas for pollinator nesting.
  • Leave exposed patches of well-drained soil in native areas for pollinator nesting.
  • Consider joining the Monarchs in the Rough project.
  • Provide water sources with shallow sides to prevent pollinators from drowning.

Educational Plan

Since publishing the Best Management Practices for NYS Golf Courses book and this website, the NYS BMP committee has focused on outreach and education efforts to promote the acceptance and implementation of BMPs in New York State’s golf industry.

As part of these efforts, the committee surveyed the state’s golf course professionals to conduct a formative assessment of BMP concepts and a survey of BMPs as implemented on NYS golf courses. This survey was conducted in 2015 and early 2016 with a response window of four months. Once the survey period ended, the results were analyzed to determine educational and outreach priorities for our target audience of NYS superintendents and assistant superintendents. The following topics were identified to emphasize and prioritize:

  • pesticide and fertilizer storage and handling
  • pesticide and fertilizer application
  • regulations such as the P-law
  • key elements of a progressive golf turf IPM program
  • equipment washing areas
  • optimizing irrigation systems
  • soil nutrient test interpretation

To find out more on the quiz and survey results and how the NYS BMP committee is implementing the plan, download the Educational Plan (pdf).

Assess and Map Your Soils

Assessing soil health is a critical aspect of best management practices implementation, as underscored in the BMP statement:

Determine accurate supplemental nutrient needs based on soil chemical and physical analysis. On sand-based areas, consider foliar testing as a diagnostic tool.

The soil on your property has enormous environmental, and ultimately, economic value. You cannot implement a fully aligned BMP program until soils are properly assessed. Soil health, by definition, includes the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil. Management efforts typically focus primarily on maximizing the parameters in each of these categories for agricultural crop production. However,targets for these soil health measurements are becoming clearer, which will assist superintendents in growing healthy, dense turf.

To begin a soil health assessment, start with the Web Soil Survey. UW-Madison Professor Doug Soldat published a great article in 2015 outlining the importance and practical use of the Web Soil Survey tool: https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm. Here’s my favorite quote from the article:

The Web Soil Survey is a powerful tool that has many applications for site assessment and planning. The maps can be a powerful communication tool to explain to your golfers, parents, customers, board members, or supervisors about the challenges of growing turf on your site.”

Soil survey maps provide excellent information for your records to justify certain needs or assist in diagnosing problems. Of course, they can also be used to target soil samples from areas with known soil type differences to develop a more practical map that includes additional physical, and some chemical, properties. Knowing these properties is critical to assessing water quality risks from nutrient applications (e.g. potential for leaching), to determining the need for nutrient applications and to interpreting overall soil health.

Of course, more detailed chemical and physical analyses based on laboratory results are useful on large managed turf areas such as fairways and roughs, where large scale nutrient applications are made and greater risk to water quality (e.g. runoff or leaching) exists. Currently, the level of interpretation and practical value of chemical and biological tests is limited. However, it is important to know the physical properties, drainage class, and pH of soils on your entire property that are managed in some way, from native areas to putting surfaces. Therefore, consider the following incremental approach to BMP implementation when developing a nutrient management program:

A good practice is to assess the chemical and physical analysis of your regularly fertilized soils using a Minimum Level for Sustainable Nutrition (MLSN) Guideline interpretation, as well as looking at overall turf quality and growth, when developing a nutrient management program. Make accurate supplemental nutrient applications to targeted areas of established need.

A better practice is to use the Web Soil Survey as a guide to classify and sample all soils on the property using the MLSN interpretation and performance variables (quality and growth). Make supplemental applications of nutrients based on large-scale mapping in targeted areas of well-established needs.

The best practice would be to implement the above Web Soil Survey-driven sampling program and use appropriate interpretation and performance variables as layers in a GIS database built from the sampling locations. Use this GIS database of soil properties for GPS-based Variable Rate Application equipment for precise supplemental nutrient applications to targeted areas of well-established need.

New Case Study Video

Visit the NYS BMP Youtub channel to view the new case study video on the low cost washpad demonstration conducted at Locust Hill Country Club: https://tinyurl.com/y8m8o44t.

 

“Finding the Baseline”: A Simple Approach to Water Quality Monitoring

As winter fades and the Spring rains arrive, a significant amount of water will flow along the surfaces of our golf courses and into wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, and the spectacular estuaries of Long Island. In fact, New York State is associated with more than 15 individual watersheds (see inset to find your watershed).

In some parts of the world, regulatory agencies can impose strict water quality reporting requirements on land managers. In fact, strict water quality reporting has been considered within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Susquehanna River Watershed, and is undoubtedly of interest to those involved in the various initiatives for nutrients and pesticides on Long Island.

As good land managers, it is vital that we understand any potential impact we could have on our local water bodies, and if possible, the groundwater below the land we manage. A good place to begin might be to test the water that passes through the golf course during the spring rainy period. In fact, one of the “Getting Started BMPs” states “Assess current surface and groundwater quality.”

Establishing baseline data is critical for representative water bodies and water sources that may be impacted by golf course operations. Baseline tests should be conducted 4x/year for the first year and should be taken from the same locations every time to ensure consistency.

The first step is to identify two sampling locations for testing flowing surface water ( creek/stream/river): one location where the water enters the property and the second where the water exits. The sample should not be collected directly from the side of the waterbody as sediment can contaminate the sample. If you must collect water near the edge of a water body, use a dipper or other type of extension to take the sample away from the shoreline. To collect the sample, use clean plastic containers that will hold at least a 100 ml and with lids that make a tight seal. Rinse the bottle (including the lid) several times with the water to be tested. Fill the sample bottle completely and eliminate all head space (no air space). Be sure the lid is tight so that samples do not leak during transit.
If possible, collect and ship samples to the laboratory on the same day. The same laboratory you already use for soil testing may offer water quality testing services as well. A basic analysis will include results for at least pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and specific conductivity.

Two sample submissions collected four times in the first year might require about four total labor hours for collecting samples and sending out for analysis. Lab fees for basic analysis for the baseline data should be a couple of hundred dollars. More information on this BMP is available at http://nysgolfbmp.cals.cornell.edu/water-quality-monitoring/.

Stuck in the Shop? Do a Point Source Pollution Assessment!

Winter in New York affords time for reflection on the growing season and planning for the new one. However, after a month of that exercise, you are still “stuck in the shop”! So while you are stuck inside why not conduct a review of the potential environmental risk? Did you know your maintenance shop is often the location on the course that poses the GREATEST risk to water quality – POINT source pollution.

A critical first step in aligning your facility with Best Management Practices is to assess potential point source pollution risk. Point source pollution is any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged, such as a pipe. Examples of point sources include:

  • discharges from equipment washing area
  • waste from pesticide
  • fertilizer and equipment maintenance wastes
  • unintended releases fertilizer and pesticides storage areas

It is clear much of this risk emanates from the maintenance shop area where equipment and chemicals are stored and transferred to and from equipment. Minimizing the risk from these areas begins with recognizing the potential for off-site movement, understanding any regulatory requirements associated with the volume of chemical storage or rinsate, and mitigating the risk through proper containment.

If you are considering a new facility, local building inspectors should be consulted during planning to outline the permitting process and local requirements. Also, consider meeting with a representative from a NYSDEC regional office and the local fire marshal. The NYSDEC requests a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for new construction, which is administered by local governments. NYSDEC, and other interested and involved agencies, comments on SEQRs.

An excellent place to begin any assessment of your existing facility begins with understanding the regulatory guidelines that are provided by the NYSDEC. These have been summarized on the NYS BMP website.

A very practical article to consider the condition of your existing facility was penned in 2014 by USGA Senior Agronomist Dave Oatis, titled, I Know We Don’t Have the Money, but Can We Afford NOT to Invest in a New Maintenance Facility?

Since you are stuck inside, you might as well consider looking around at the building you might be stuck in and see if it measures up!

 

It’s not Sexy-The Long Play for the High Ground: Do the BMP Assessment and Survey Today!

Stewardship of the natural resources on New York State Golf Courses is the guiding principle behind the establishment and implementation of our Best Management Practices. The media, activists and a muted industry shape public perception, which in turn influences public policy. Try as we may, the golf industry is facing an uphill battle with the majority of the public regarding perception of our stewardship of the New York State’s natural resources. Further, an activist element exists in NY focused on health effects of pesticides and nutrients applied to the land, from farms and orchards to sports fields, lawns, and golf courses. Short term, developing relationships with members of our community off the golf course, educating members on the golf course, and communicating the “natural capital” of the course to policy and the regulatory community is critical.

The “long play” is to have data that tells the story. In an age when reputable sources of information are under siege by the “snap-face-chat-tweet” industry, collecting data that demonstrates action seems to be the best form of a quiet revolution. You can hide from contributing the data we need for BMPs to be tailored to our needs, you can avoid learning about aspects of your course may not entirely understand, but in the end, we each will be held accountable for how we steward the land under our care.

Not all of us can be a Ted Horton, Dan Dinelli, Anthony William or Matt Ceplo. But we can all be recognized for doing our part in shaping the future of environmental stewardship on golf courses in the 21st century. It takes very little time to answer the questions on the assessment of your knowledge, maybe a few more minutes to reflect on the survey of your current practices and their alignment with what science says right now is BEST-not good, not very good-but BEST.

Take 20-30 minutes and take the quiz and survey. It works on your phone, your desktop, laptop and tablet, it’s not sexy but it works. I doubt you will feel any excitement when you are done with the process, but knowing that you are making the long play for the high ground of environmental stewardship might provide a sense of greater accomplishment. It’s what’s BEST!

Results of the Low Cost Wash Pad Demonstration

Pollution Prevention Institute at RIT that partnered with Locust Hill CC on the low cost wash pad demonstration project has just published their case study on the project. Through a Turf Environmental Stewardship Fund grant, the BMP project was able to assist in the demonstration through sponsoring the cost of the equipment purchases (~$6,000) and the participation of Cornell University.

From RIT’s report on the case study, the results were as follows:

  • After reductions of up to 50% using air blowing and different nozzles, approximately 700 gal/day of wastewater would need to be managed. Then if, this wastewater can be filtered and reused, overall reductions in wastewater would exceed 90%. A screen and sand filter was tested and installed, and a UV lamp was added to help control bacterial growth
  • Equipment costs were approximately $6,000 and engineering support provided by NYSP2I
  • As of Fall 2017, system working satisfactory and water recycled
  • System will be monitored periodically for performance and quantification of water/wastewater reduction

Read the full project summary on the RIT website: https://tinyurl.com/y8oyb4bc

First test run of the completed system.