Nematodes…or “todes” for short can be a devastating issue. They come and go as they please and are more problematic when the greens are under stress. This December, we have had a significant outbreak of these aquatic parasites, most likely resulting from the late aeration of the greens on November 14th. The anguina pacificae nematode is unique as it has only been identified on a small number of courses along the Pacific coast of Northern California. This particular nematode forms galls on the shoots of Poa annua and causes significant damage to golf course greens. While disease and most other pests can be controlled, the Anguina pacificae currently is the most devastating pest of Poa annua putting greens on these Northern California golf courses. On Poa, it induces “stem” galls at the crown of the plant that sequentially contain developing juveniles, adults, and eggs. Initial symptoms on turf consist of small yellow patches, which enlarge and may coalesce as the nematodes spread Young, infected plants may die and, when the infestation is severe, a rough, uneven putting surface results.
Nematodes in the drainage swale on the 4th green
Nematodes creating a distinguishable pattern on the 14th green
There is not a lot we can do about this little pest. There are billions upon billions of todes in our greens and no one chemical or product would completely wipe out the entire population. Instead, a healthy approach must be used to combat this issue. Raising mowing heights, additional fertility, and reducing stress as much as possible. Several companies or products claim to be the “cure-all” … although the ultimate cure seems to be re-grassing the green surfaces with bent grass. Our warm summer temperatures and less fog in Santa Cruz help to keep the nematode issues to a minimum, but the winter timeframe is when they typically appear most damaging. Cool nights and shorter hours of sunlight do not allow the turfgrass to grow out of nematode damage very quickly. Until the grass grows at a quicker rate, some putts may have to cross over these depressed areas creating a “todal” nuisance.