The Agronomic Challenges at Franklin County Country Club

Golf course

Any superintendent faces their share of agronomic challenges but the menu of challenges Ed Wachter deals with on a day-to-day basis is more extensive than most.

Wachter is the superintendent at Franklin County Country Club, a private club in Washington, Missouri 50 miles west of St. Louis. He’s been at the club since 2005.

“It’s a unique piece of property,” Wachter said. “When I came here I had trouble in the beginning trying to figure this place out. It took me a couple years. Everything from my old course, you could just throw it out the window. I had to learn this piece of property.”

The golf course features two distinct nines. The original nine holes opened for play in 1924; the architect is unknown.

In 1989 architect Ron Prichard was brought in to lay out nine additional holes; today’s ninth through the 17th. Prichard returned in 1993 to redesign six holes. Today, only two of the original nine holes remain, today’s seventh and 18th.

Some of Wachter’s most significant day-to-day challenges are related to soil composition.

“Like a lot of golf courses, I’ve got a lot of elevation change,” he said. “But I also have a lot of nice loam soil to on some holes, heavy clay, and rock.

Golf course

“On some areas of my golf course the topsoil is shallow, 8, 10, 12 inches deep, and in other areas, it’s like a farm field, so I’ve got the challenges of different soil types, I’ve got the challenges of the elevation, and the microclimates throughout the golf course, because we’re in valleys, we’re on top of hills, we’re open, we’re enclosed.”

Like many of his peers, Wachter expends considerable effort combating heat-stress issues.

“We do have fans on a couple of greens that don’t get the air that we need,” he said. “The rest of the them get plenty.

“I treat for root rot and all the soil-borne diseases. I do that in the spring and then I continue that through summer.”

Counter heat stress before it starts

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When he first arrived at the club, Wachter was plagued by fairy ring-issues. He got help from Dr. Lee Miller then at the University of Missouri, now at Purdue.

Dr. Miller put us on the right track,” Wachter recalls, “and I haven’t had fairy ring in greens sine 2007-08.”

Wachter started using Aquaritin Defend some years ago.

“I think I actually won it in a silent auction,” he said. “Won three or four bottles when it was (Nualgi).

I won it, I sprayed it. and I liked it so bought some more and I’ve been buying it ever since.”

Wachter switched over to Aquaritin 19 after it was introduced.

“They changed the formulation and I went to the 19,” he said. “I actually bought a case this year; I’d never bought a case before but I went ahead and bought 12 bottles this year.”

Wachter, who received his education at Southeast Missouri State, utilizes Aquaritin 19 in a number of ways, but primarily on his greens.

“I’ve used it in green surrounds,” he said, “I’ve used it in some fairways. I don’t have enough to treat fairways with it. Most if it goes on greens.

 “Maybe I’ll spot treat a fairway, If I lay some sod, I’ll throw it down. Green surrounds, green approaches, I’ve done that. But most of it is on greens.”

Wachter customarily applies Aquaritin 19 on a biweekly basis, but more often if necessary.

“It goes out about every two weeks,” he said. “Sometimes more if I think I need a bump.

“I do regulation on greens. I regulate and keep my nitrogen up a little bit while keeping my growth steady. I don’t want to regulate them too much; there is a fine line there so I’ll make sure I’ve got plenty of nitrogen.”

Wachter will occasionally add Aquaritin 19 to his fertilizer applications.

Golf course

“Sometimes it goes in the fertilizer, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “If I’m watering it in, I normally don’t put it in. But, if it’s going to sit on the leaf all day before I water it in, then it’s in the tank.”

Wachter also incorporates Aquaritin 19 into the ‘biological cocktail’ he utilizes to ward off nematodes, which have been problematic in years past.

“I use a lot of biological products,” he said, “and I’ll even throw the 19 in with the biological. “I’ll throw a little extra in, and I’ll water it in.

“I’ve lost quite a bit of turf from lance nematodes but for the last three years I haven’t had a problem with what I’m doing. So, I’m not using any nematicides, I’m using all natural (products).”

Wachter says his ongoing regimen has significantly improved his greens.

“My greens have never been better since I figured the nematode problem out,” he said. “My mistake with nematodes was I was going to use conventional nematicides to kill them and it didn’t work.”

Wachter says his greens are as healthy as he’s ever seen them.

“My greens have never been better in my career,” he said. “I’ve never had greens this good in my life. And the only think different I’m doing is putting in my biological products.”

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