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Should thatch be the target of microbial studies in turfgrass?



Controlling fungal diseases on golf course turfgrass is critical to maintaining a high-quality playing surface and preserving the aesthetics of the course.

Although previous studies on fungal pathogens and beneficial microbes have often focused on soil communities, bacteria and fungi are more abundant in the thatch of golf courses than in the soil. One of the major cool-season turfgrass pathogens, Sclerotinia homoeocarpa, is thought to overwinter in infected leaf blades, suggesting that the thatch may harbor the highest amount of this organism.

We used a species-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to determine the abundance of S. homoeocarpa in the thatch and soil of roughs, fairways and putting greens on one organically and two conventionally managed golf courses over two seasons. We confirmed that S. homoeocarpa is found in greater abundance in the thatch, and despite differences in fungicide use on the different courses and management areas, it was present in similar amounts on all areas.

These results have important implications for future microbe detection and monitoring efforts, and for research aimed at developing sustainable management practices to reduce S. homoeocarpa.

— Elisha Allan-Perkins, Ph.D., and Geunhwa Jung, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and Daniel K. Manter, Ph.D., USDA-ARS, Fort Collins, Colo.

Editor’s note: Earlier versions of these summaries were published in the 2016 ASA-CSSA-SSSA Meeting Abstracts, ASA, CSSA and SSSA, Madison, Wis.

Photo by Elisha Allan-Perkins

Teresa Carson is GCM’s science editor.