Life with Poa Annua (Part 1)

Here’s a quote from the Michigan State University turf weed website about Poa Annua (annual bluegrass):

“Annual bluegrass is unique among weeds. There is probably no other weed that is so widely adapted to variations in mowing height, site conditions and cultural practices.

Annual bluegrass is the most common and widely distributed grassy weed in the world. It is mentioned as a weed in nearly every plant commodity”.

And we at Niakwa are cursed with poa annua in abundance Read More>>

What does it look like?

Poa annua is a short growing turfgrass. This time of year it has already flowered and is going to seed. Here’s a shot of poa annua in our own twelfth green. (my feet are there to create scale):

Poa Annua on Niakwa 12 Green

This is what the seed heads look like up close

Poa Annua Seed Heads

Why do we love to hate Poa?

Poa Annua has a high degree of bio diversity. The Michigan State article says that in “much of Canada there are biotypes that produce seed in the spring and then continue to grow as perennials”. (I’m going to resist making the obvious comparison to marriage here). The article goes on to state, “Somewhere between true bunch-type annual bluegrass and stoloniferous [perennial] annual bluegrass are hundreds if not thousands of different biotypes”. Poa produces seeds early in the year in our climate and it is exceedingly prolific with each plant producing many, many seeds.

Poa is highly stressed by heat and by cold – a double whammy in a continental climate. It doesn’t like mowing or traffic, and needs lots of moisture. Poa grows unevenly, so when it infests a green it takes extra care and maintenance to create a consistent putting surface.

According to our superintendent, Shawn Major, unlike bent grass, which can go dormant to protect the ‘crown’ of the plant, Poa is either living – or dead. (no comment on marriage here either). So, as we have seen on our greens in past years, in a cold, icy winter with little snow cover poa dies. In a hot dry summer poa also dies.

How we deal with Poa in our Fairways

Most of our fairways are poa annua. Years ago, when golf courses started cutting fairways tighter, Niakwa followed suit, with the knowledge that poa annua would eventually take over. Our drainage and irrigation systems allow the grounds crew to keep our fairways in good condition despite the amount of poa in them.

Our rough is still predominantly blue grass. Because the rough is longer and usually grows thick, the low growing Poa doesn’t get a chance to get established. Also, poa needs moisture and the rough receives less water from our irrigation system.

In recent years our grounds crew overseeded parts of our fairways with bluegrass using a mechanical seeder. That’s why you’ll see darker lines grass in places around the course

Overseeding on 8 Fairway

Fertilizer, fungicide, irrigation and daily mowing are all elements of our fairways maintenance program. There are still times when hot dry conditions cause stress, but in general, with loads of TLC, our staff is able to deliver some of the best fairways in the country.

That’s enough about Poa Annua/Annual Bluegrass for now. I’ll talk about how we deal with poa in our greens in my next blog.

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