Calcium Products - Brian Milam
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Brian Milam

Brian Milam

The Unsung Heroes

When I first started with Calcium Products 5 years ago I heard an extreme environmentalist talk about the “AUGUSTA EFFECT” and he was referring to how televising the Masters in color started the overuse of fertilizers in order to make golf courses and home lawns look as “perfect” as Augusta National. Take it from me, nothing is “perfect” but Augusta is close and it is not because of the overuse and irresponsible application of chemicals or pesticides. Like thousands of other GCSAA superintendents, Augusta National follows a very well thought out, well executed fertility plan. See this article written during this year’s Masters Tournament regarding some of the best practices in maintaining the course, Augusta National Golf Club: Nothing Cosmetic.

The use of the phrase the “Augusta Effect” is one, unfair because Augusta National is an easy target due to the extreme privacy of the clubs operations, and two the environmentalists that take unfair shots at Augusta National are actually taking an unfair shot at all superintendents worldwide.  Golf Course superintendents are not a bunch of un-educated, un-informed ogres that are looking to destroy the environment with the overuse of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides at the expense of the watershed. The real truth is that Golf Course superintendents are some of the world’s leading agronomists that are highly skilled, highly trained and most importantly highly educated.

I have been involved in the golf industry for nearly 15 years, gaining my PGA membership in 1999. I have been fortunate to work at one of the world’s leading golf resorts and I have had inside access to how the superintendents manage high value turf at a very high value facility and let me be the first to tell everyone, it is not their mission to turn the facility into Augusta National Golf Club and it is not their mission to destroy the environment. All they are trying to accomplish is providing an experience that is memorable for every golfer that plays at the facility. I think this is ultimately the mission of every golf course superintendent. They are truly the unsung heroes of the industry. Without great golf course superintendents, there would be no golf. No offense to the restaurant, or to the PGA Professional staff, but without a quality golf course with quality playing conditions the golf course would never survive. Don’t get me wrong, all facilities need exceptional value added services like a restaurant, or a well-stocked pro shop or professional providing lessons on the practice tees but if the turf is poor the facility is sunk.

The next time you are out playing golf and you see someone on the maintenance staff, be sure to stop them and thank them for getting the course ready and you appreciate their service!! 

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Managing Salts in Soil & Irrigation Water

On a recent trip to Arizona, I had an opportunity to meet with multiple superintendents that are currently using the SuperCal brands to manage high salts in the soil. Golf courses, particularly in the Southwest have started to use reclaimed water out of necessity to irrigate the turf. The global demand for fresh potable water is doubling every 20 years and due to this demand golf course superintendents must take an integrated approach to growing healthy turf.

One of the recurring issues we kept hearing about in Arizona was dealing with bicarbonates in the irrigation water. I have linked an excellent article regarding the management of salts in the soil and irrigation water. This article was written by Sowmya (Shoumo) Mitra, PhD. from the Golf Course Management magazine in January of 2001.  

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Gypsum is gypsum . . . right? Wrong.

 

Gypsum is gypsum…right? Wrong.

Gypsum is just gypsum and any will do, right? Wrong! Just like any product in the marketplace, there are high quality and low quality gypsum's and the adage of you get what you pay for is absolutely true.

Gypsum is a very misunderstood amendment; most people don’t understand the value. Before I talk about how the quality of gypsum can affect its effectiveness, let me give you a general overview of the material.

Gypsum comes in two different forms, both of which can be used in the turf industry. The first is calcium sulfate anhydrite and the second is calcium sulfate dihydrate. As you can read, both forms have both calcium and sulfur as part of the elemental make-up. The difference between the two, however, is directly tied to its effectiveness and that difference is water! The second form, calcium sulfate dehydrate, has 2 additional water molecules associated with the calcium sulfate crystal. It is these additional water molecules that make the elements of calcium and sulfur available to the plant within hours, opposed to days or weeks with the anhydrite form. For additional detailed information on the difference between the two forms, check out this video by Pace Turf.

Hopefully after watching the video you now understand that the ONLY gypsum you should use is the dihydrate form; now it is up to you to find the best form available.
By law, all gypsum bags must have a product analysis printed someplace on the bag. It will look something like this:

Guaranteed Analysis:
Ca (calcium)……………………………………………..#%
S (sulfur)…………………………………………………#%
CaSO4-2H2O (calcium sulfate dihydrate)……#%
Derived from: calcium sulfate dihydrate

The most important line in the analysis is:
CaSO4-2H2O (calcium sulfate dihydrate)……#%.

This is the line that will show you the purity or the quality of the material. The closer that percentage is to 100%, the more effective and efficient the gypsum is for your particular application. As that percentage gets further away from 100% the more material you will need to apply to maximize the nutritional value of the gypsum.

Another major factor in your selection of gypsum had to do with the fineness of the particle that makes up the gypsum in the bag. So what does fineness mean? Fineness has to do with how small the raw material is crushed to and how much can pass through a mesh screen before it is bagged or pelletized then bagged.

Side note: there are various mesh screen sizes. For example, if the screen size is 10 mesh, that means there are 10 holes for every square inch. If the screen size is 200 mesh, it means there are 200 holes for every square inch. Remember, the higher the mesh size the smaller the particle has to be to pass through.

I added the side note is because particle size is directly related to the efficiency of gypsum. The smaller the gypsum becomes the more surface area it will cover. This is important because if you can cover more surface area with less product, you are maximizing the value of the application. The fineness can be found on the bag alongside the analysis.

There are a lot of options in the marketplace for gypsum and to the less educated user, it’s all the same. Now you know why that isn't true. Turn over the bag now that you know what to look for. Check the analysis and mesh factor to make an educated decision. Trust me, your soil will thank you for it and, hopefully, you’ll thank me too!

 

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