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Q&A with Nick Kray, Golf Course Superintendent

Last year, Nick A. Kray, golf course superintendent at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and his team had some big course renovation and improvement projects in the works, but Mother Nature forced them to change the plans.

PBI-Gordon talked to Nick about the projects at Elmcrest CC, and about his team’s fungicide program.

Nick A. Kray, CGSC

Nick A. Kray

How’s the renovation coming?

The course improvement projects are coming along great. We spent the last couple winters sitting down and discussing the course and possible improvements that could be made. The maintenance team and the golf professionals then worked together to make a 10-year long-range comprehensive plan that prioritized the improvements to be made.

After August 10, 2020 our plans were forced to change: a derecho came through the course and we lost close to 500 trees on the property. We sustained damage to structures around the property as well. So, our plans were rearranged, priority was put on cleanup and getting the course back to being safe.

We were able to complete a few of our projects early this spring including a new pond wall, club entrance beautification, tee expansions, and some mounding that will have a native/fescue turf once it is all wrapped up. We also have the ongoing bunker renovation that we are doing in-house to keep us busy.

Iowa had one of the snowiest winters on record—how is that affecting your spring?

Well, we had plenty of moisture and a blanket of snow to insulate the turf against the cold temperatures. I believe things would have been a lot different if we did not have the snow cover to help. We were lucky that we did not experience any desiccation, but that was surely due to the moisture and snow cover.

We experienced some snow mold around the property in areas that were not sprayed preventatively, but the areas that were sprayed with plant protectants made it through the winter great. The downside to the snowy winter was that it slowed down our ability to get back to the projects we had going on when the snow started to fly. But since then, we have made up for it and are off to a great start this season.

You were in Kansas City for a long time: is Pythium becoming a problem in Iowa the way it is in KC?

I spent 11 years down in KC and I can tell you that is one of the most difficult growing environments there is. The summer heat and sun were always a challenge, paired with humidity and the overall length of the season when the daytime temperatures are 95+ degrees, and nighttime temps rarely fall below 75 degrees for 100 or more days. And if that’s not enough, the disease pressure is immense, especially when it comes to Pythium. Having a solid preventative program that you can rely on is crucial to being successful in the transition zone and that is one thing I brought back with me to Iowa.

Pythium is absolutely an issue that we can and do experience here in Iowa. Elmcrest had experienced Pythium issues on greens and fairways prior to my arrival. Knowing that, I built our plant protectant program around a solid foundation of Pythium protection.

How long have you been using Segway® Fungicide SC for Pythium?

I first used Segway as a 1st Assistant Superintendent while in KC, and I saw how great it worked in our greens program. When I stepped into my first superintendent role at Oakwood Country Club in KC, I made sure to use Segway in my program there as well. It’s taking me down memory lane, but I believe that was back in 2015 when I first used Segway!

Can you tell us about your fungicide rotation program (which products are you using, and when, etc.)?

In KC, I was making four to five Pythium apps per year depending on the season, and I needed to find a good rotational partner. That’s where Segway came in. Now that the Segway label allows for four applications per year, I have kept it in the program anyway and do not feel the need to use all four of the possible apps of [competitor fungicide with a different mode of action].

Since moving back home to Iowa, I also use Segway as the anchor Pythium product on our tee program as well as a rotational partner in our greens program. [Competitor fungicide] is used on the “holiday spray program” roughly Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Segway comes in the program between apps and helps to keep us covered for Pythium all season long. Last season I also replaced an app of [competitor fungicide] with Union and did not experience any Pythium issues.

How did Union® Fungicide SC perform during your trial program?

Union was great! When PBI-Gordon representative Shawn Fopma offered the opportunity to trial the product at Elmcrest I was excited to see what it could do. I did not hesitate to put it to the test up against my anchor product for Pythium. I sprayed half of our greens with Union and the other half with the [competitor fungicide] and waited to see what would happen. NOTHING happened! There was no sign of Pythium or any other turf disease. It worked just as I had hoped it would.

Would you recommend Segway and/or Union to other turf pros?

I would absolutely recommend both Segway and Union to other golf course superintendents—and I have. I am very proud of my 1st Assistant in KC who is now a superintendent himself. When he called me last year to double-check his spray program, I made sure to tell him not to forget his apps of Segway! I also told him how I was using Union, and to keep it in mind for next season and see how it could be used in his program.

The bottom line for me is both of these products WORK! I trusted my greens with Segway in KC, and I did not have Pythium issues, and I use Segway in my programs here in Iowa knowing that if it worked in the transition zone in that type of growing environment, I can have the peace of mind that it will continue to work in Iowa’s hot and humid summers as well.

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