The Bad Seed: Preventing Problems with Poa Annua

by John Carlone, CGCS, Meadow Brook Club, Jericho, NY

Golfers at MGA member clubs are well-acquainted with Poa annua, as it is more than likely found in abundance on the greens at your home club.  It is also one of the toughest turf varieties to maintain but thrives in wet-soiled areas that are highly compacted and have a low height of cut – as well as older, classic courses (that are the rule rather than the exception throughout the Met section). Slowing down seedhead production of Poa through preventative measures early in the year is the key for superintendents to ensure top quality greens for the rest of the season.

Controlling the Poa annua seed to prevent bumpy greens is a matter of both art and science, and requires perfect timing and the use of the proper products. Much research has been performed in recent years through the support of groups like the Tri State Turf Foundation – in partnership with university scientists – to find just the right mix of inputs to ensure the best conditions possible. Precise timing of this treatment is critical and if you get it wrong it can have serious negative effects on turf quality. But on balance, a poorly timed application is better than none at all. Even if a superintendent is only able to control 50 percent of the seedhead production in greens for a given year, it still results in a 50 percent better putting surface once golfers get out on the links.

This practice makes the turf better equipped to withstand the hotter months of summer which lay ahead. University researchers are still not sure why this happens, but in the field, superintendents throughout the Northeast see the obvious benefits. It also makes the the Poa annua plant stronger, therefore taking longer for it to wilt under intense heat, and allows superintendents to maintain firmer conditions on putting surfaces.

As the debate on whether the Rules of Golf will allow golfers to use belly putters, a superintendent’s gut has no bearing on the decision on how to treat greens for Poa seed head control.  Many scientific measures are taken into account, and while it is impossible to make the best decision every time, those in our business are able to get it right more often than not. And whether you are a traditionalist or an anchorer when you get on the short grass, these important steps taken by your golf course superintendent will allow all golfers to experience smooth sailing once they arrive on the green. 

For more information on Poa annua seedhead control, click HERE to learn about some of the specifics and decision-making that go into this process from the USGA Green Section.