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New Year, Same Roots, USGA East Region Update

USGA Green Section | Published on 2/22/2024
Brian Gietka, agronomist, East Region 

It’s never too early to get a jump on root growth for the long season ahead.

The Northeast has experienced the ups and downs of temperatures and precipitation that we’ve come to expect during winter. Many areas recently warmed up enough to not only thaw frozen turf but open for play with golf carts. Meanwhile, other locations just got a fresh covering of snow. If your course has thawed turf, it’s a great opportunity to assess root system health and potentially take some steps to promote root growth.


Having a deep, vigorous root system is paramount to surviving the rigors of summer. Although staff levels in winter are low and working around play on warm winter days may be challenging, root systems provide the foundation for healthy turf and high-quality playing surfaces so it’s never too early to get a jump on the next season.


Turf depends on its roots to provide several vital functions. Roots anchor the turf and provide a strong, physical support structure for stability. Absorbing and transporting water and nutrients, which is an essential function of roots, supports turf growth and development. Roots and stems also store food reserves in the form of carbohydrates, which are needed when the turf requires more energy than provided by photosynthesis. Carbohydrate storage increases when the growth rate slows. Therefore, promoting root growth during warmer weather in the winter months is beneficial for season-long turf health and quality playing surfaces when it matters most.


If weather permits, several quick and minimally disruptive practices can be implemented at this time of year to promote root growth. Small-diameter solid or needle tines, slicing knife tines, cross tines, star tines or micro tines can be used to create channels in the putting green profile. This will encourage air and water to infiltrate into the rootzone. Moving air and water deeper into the profile will encourage root growth that ultimately stores carbohydrates needed for the upcoming spring growth season. Taking some time to vent or implement other methods of aeration during breaks in winter weather is a great way to encourage strong turf for the season ahead.

Northeast Region Agronomists

Darin Bevard, senior director, Championship Agronomy – 

Elliott L. Dowling, regional director, East Region –

Brian Gietka, agronomist – 

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service

Contact the Green Section Staff 


(616) 834-0450