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  Black Layer

If you probe your greens and notice the presence of a foul-smelling, black colored layer, then you likely have developed black layer conditions in your greens. Black layer forms when soil which is slow to drain and is high in organic matter stays wet (nearly saturated) for a prolonged period of time and becomes anaerobic (without oxygen). When a soil is kept without oxygen for a prolonged time, anaerobic microbes flourish and feed on the organic matter in the soil. Anaerobic microbes are able to obtain oxygen by chemically removing it from sulfate compounds in the soil giving rise to the formation of hydrogen sulfide gas. Hydrogen sulfide gas is toxic to the grass roots and has the characteristic odor of rotten eggs. Oxygen helps give soils their bright orange, tan, and yellow colors while soils without oxygen revert to darker colors and eventually turn black. Since oxygen is necessary for root respiration, roots cannot survive in black layer soils and as a general rule live roots will only be found in soil above the black layer. If prompt action is not taken to get oxygen into the soil, remove the toxic gases and stimulate healthy root growth, the overlying turf may be lost in a short period of time. Irrigation with effluent water having a high amount of suspended bio solids may also contribute to the accumulation of organic matter in the soil and the formation of black layer conditions.

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