Irrigating with Algae

Patrick Williams is a Golf Course Industry magazine contributing editor.

Sometimes conditions are just right for algae on turf—humid, wet and shady with an abundance of nutrients. For golf courses with irrigation ponds, some of that algae could be coming directly from sprinklers and irrigation heads.

Many superintendents are hesitant to treat their ponds for algae, but they should if they want to prevent algae issues on their turf, says Steve Larose, technical services representative for BioSafe Systems. “If they’re drawing from a pond, then they’re definitely having issues and they’re just basically spreading algae all over their greens whenever they water,” he says.

BioSafe carries the products GreenClean Pro, a granular algaecide; and ZeroTol, a fungicide for turf. The company also has touring technical representatives and an in-house pathologist to address specific issues at courses, Larose says.

Even if there isn’t a noticeable algal bloom in a course pond, or a clog in an intake structure or irrigation head, algae could still be coming through, says West Bishop, algae scientist and water quality research manager at SePRO. “There’s certainly algae that are present in the atmosphere that can just be deposited from spores in the atmosphere, but irrigation is probably a primary route where algae is put right on the turf, and certainly the irrigation, or keeping it moist, can help propagate algae on the turfgrass,” he says.

The SePRO products SeClear Algaecide & Water Quality Enhancer and Captain XTR fight against algae in ponds, Bishop says. Superintendents who want to take a proactive, preventative approach should use SeClear, while those who are experiencing a large growth or bloom should use Captain XTR, he says.

Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., has had some issues with algae in its ponds over the years, says superintendent Jim Pavonetti. A pond company treats the ponds when necessary, and workers have had luck with a product called Super’s Choice. “That’s a type of bacteria that eats the nutrients that are necessary for the algae to bloom,” he says. “And then we dye the ponds black right before every weekend, and that blocks the ultraviolet rays, which is also necessary for the algae to bloom.”

Algae that spread onto the turf at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., could have arrived there at least in part through irrigation, says superintendent Ralph Kepple. “I’m sure that it has, and we have some algae in our irrigation pond,” he says. “I’m sure that we get some from that. It’s hard to tell, though. Algae is kind of everywhere, and if it gets the right conditions, it’s going to find its way in there.”