Wilt 101

In my June post about wilt and the irrigation system, I mentioned I’d explain wilt to everyone following the blog.

Wilt is nature’s way of preventing death! And it works! Wilt occurs in all plants but I will focus on turf. The grass plant cools its self by drawing water from the soil, up through its roots and out its stomates, which are located through out the leaf surface. This constant flow of water regulates the plants temperature. When moisture levels are too low for the roots system to draw from the stomates close. The temperature of the leaf blade rises and turns purple, then to brown in color. How quickly this happens depends on the air temperature, wind, relative humidity and traffic.

A tell tale sign for anyone to check for wilt is to look back at your footprints on the turf. Wilted turf will lay flat in the pattern of your shoe and will not bounce back. Hydrated grass is very resilient to traffic and will spring right back up even under the heaviest of traffic. You can use this method here at the Club or in your own yard to check for wilt.

The picture above is 14 green from June 13. It is wilt, not dead grass. All life of grass originates in the crown of the plant. The crown is located right at the soil level. All roots, shoots and leaves begin at the crown. Wilting and dead leaves prevent the crown from drying out and put the plant into dormancy, thus keeping the plant alive. Depending on the species of grass, this dormant state can last for months. Now with a little water, the plant will again begin to grow and develops new shoots, leaves and roots. As evident by the photo below taking of the 14th green on June 19.

As we move into the heat of the summer, recovery from wilt can become a bit more complicated. A plant going through the wilt/dormancy period is stressed which can lead to infection from disease that can slow down the recovery process or even worse, kill the plant. We due apply fungicide on a 14 day schedule, but may have to shorten that schedule when the environmental conditions favor such infections. This is insurance to keep the turf healthy and strong during the most stressful time of the year!