Research solves coastal turfgrass mystery

By Tom Lollis

Bruce MartinCoastal golf course superintendents are taming a new turf disease called rapid blight with help from a Clemson plant scientist. Bruce Martin, turf pathologist at Clemson’s Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence, helped identify the cause and treatment for the disease.

He worked with superintendents at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, a North Myrtle Beach golf course, and others to solve the mystery of brown patches that had appeared on their putting greens. “We couldn’t find any evidence that we would typically see with a fungus,” said Martin.

The culprit turned out to be a land relative of an ocean-dwelling slime mold. The new organism, called Labyrinthula terrestris, thrives in areas where soils and water have a high salt content.

Martin helped identify fungicides that work to control rapid blight. He also developed management strategies for reducing the effects of salts on golf course turfgrass. These strategies help protect the state’s $1.5 billion golf-related tourism industry. In the Grand Strand alone, a 60-mile stretch from Myrtle Beach to Georgetown County, 4.3 million rounds of golf are played on 120 golf courses each year.

Research on the mold will continue since it could become a problem on other plants, especially as the growing population puts pressure on both water quality and quantity in coastal areas.

For information: Bruce Martin, 843-662-3526, ext. 234,