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March 2011

Turfgrass Research at the University of Tennessee

Tennessee Turf Research

I visited the East Tennessee Ag Research and Education Center in Knoxville yesterday to see many of the turfgrass experiments now underway. This large facility has vast swaths of turfgrass plots sweeping down to the Tennessee River.


What really caught my eye, and is now under construction and nearly ready for planting, is an exciting new research center. The Center for Safer Athletic Fields is a partnership between Astroturf® and the University of Tennessee. Dr. Jim Brosnan explained how these 60 miniature athletic fields and other research plots at the Center have been designed for many interesting experiments. From the press release announcing this Center:

The unique outdoor research facility will comprise 60 small-scale athletic research fields constructed from a variety of playing surfaces. UT turfgrass scientists will compare the safety and performance of synthetic playing surfaces to natural grass surfaces. Field qualities will range from those employed for professional-level sports to surfaces used by schools, public parks and recreation fields. 

Some of the other research trials I saw included:

  • Bluegrass evaluation plots
  • Zoysiagrass variety evalution
  • A multitude of weed control plots, including some really interesting pre-emergent product results, Poa annua control trials, and innovative combinations of herbicides with cultural practices to optimize weed control
  • Seedhead and disease control trials
  • Ultradwarf bermudagrass and seashore paspalum and zoysiagrass on putting greens

Ut_overseed The UT Turfgrass Field Day will be held on September 15, 2011. I wish I could be there for that. Seeing the various grasses right at the end of summer, when we might expect warm-season grasses to be at their best, and cool-season grasses to be at their worst, would be an ideal time to see which grasses perform best and which maintenance practices and products perform well to create the desired playing surfaces.

Teaching Turfgrass at University of Tennessee

I'm at the University of Tennessee this week, where I am an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Plant Sciences, for meetings and teaching. Yesterday I was a guest in Dr. Brandon Horvath's inimitable PLSC 462 class, Professional Development in the Turfgrass Industry. This class is modeled on the television show Inside the Actor's Studio and has an interview format. 

Plsc462_1 The class was very interesting, not only in this unique format of drawing out stories about professional development in the industry, but also with the studio lighting and three television cameras recording the class. This will be posted, I have been told, on iTunes U, so you will be able to see this innovative class format and, perhaps, if I can tie a bow tie without the assistance of a mirror. 

Immediately after my guest appearance in this class, I gave a seminar for the Department of Plant Sciences about the teaching work I do in Asia. Much of East Asia, and many of the population centers along the Pacific Coast of Asia fall into what we call the transition zone, meaning either C3 (cool-season) or C4 (warm-season) grasses can grow. Walking around the campus yesterday I saw tall fescue and bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and bentgrass, Poa trivialis and Poa annua — in short, just about every type of grass can grow in Tennessee. In the seminar, I spoke about the various education programs that ATC provides in Asia, where these programs are offered, and how I take a mechanistic approach to teaching turfgrass that focuses on modifying the growing environment to create the desired conditions for the grass to grow.

Ut_seminar Today I'll be looking at turfgrass research plots and learning more about the research currently underway in the turfgrass program here at the University of Tennessee.  We are also discussing our continuing collaborative work, research projects that we may do in Asia and at Tennessee, and how we can work together to develop more (and better) turfgrass information and educational programs.

Recovery from the 2004 Tsunami at Tublamu GC in Thailand

Tublamu_2007Tublamu Navy Golf Course sits on a flat, sandy stretch of land beside the Andaman Sea in Phang Nga province, just north of Phuket.

Golf_wave_of_destruction I traveled to Tublamu GC during the rebuilding process of the course in 2005 after the tsunami in 2004 destroyed the course and clubhouse, killing golfers and caddies and course workers. If you haven't read the article in Golf Magazine about the tsunami's affect on this course and how it was rebuilt, you may be interested to learn the story of what happened that day and in the subsequent months.

Download the article here (PDF, 1.4 MB).

Presentations Now Available For Download, and more

Brosnan_control_weeds The presentation slides and associated handouts and presentation notes from the Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2011 conference are now available for download at the Asian Turf Seminar website. If you could not make it to this conference, which the Thai GCSA and ATC organize for the TGA with support from The R&A, you can still have access to the educational material that was presented.

The conference had a delegation of 207 attendees from nineteen countries, representing nearly every country in Southeast Asia along with Sri Lanka, India, China, Korea, Japan, USA, Australia, and the UK. Everyone had fun, but more importantly, the educational content was again on topic, interesting, and directly applicable to golf course management in Asia. Photos from the conference are available here.

The results from the post-conference evaluation forms submitted by delegates show that more than 90% "learned new information that will help me in the future" and more than 95% "will implement things learned at this conference at my golf course." Our goal in putting on this conference is to provide useful information about turfgrass management in Asia, information that can be used to improve the playing conditions on golf courses throughout Asia, and information that can help golf course superintendents in the work they do every day in this challenging part of the world to produce fine turfgrass.

The Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2012 conference is set for March 12 to 14. 

Herbicide Safety on Newly Sprigged Bermuda and Paspalum

Patton_sulfonylurea_weed_tech2010-1This article by Patton et al. about the safety of various herbicides on seashore paspalum and hybrid bermudagrass during establishment/grow-in will be of interest to many turfgrass managers in Asia. Entitled Sulfonylurea Herbicide Safety on Newly Sprigged Bermudagrass and Seashore Paspalum, the research project was conducted in Arkansas and Louisiana and found that foramsulfuron, halosulfuron, metsulfuron, sulfsulfuron, and trifloxysulfuron can be used to control weeds in establishing Tifway bermudagrass.

For seashore paspalum, metsulfuron and halosulfuron applied two or four weeks after sprigging and sulfosulfuron applied four weeks after sprigging provided weed control without causing too much injury to the seashore paspalum turf. The Aloha variety of seashore paspalum was used in this experiment. If you are interested in using sulfonylurea herbicides on seashore paspalum, you will want to read the article for yourself.

Philippine Turfgrass Association Meeting at Sta Elena

Micah_nicer_pta_2011 I had a great time last week at the 1st Quarterly Meeting of the Philippine Turfgrass Association (PTA) at Sta Elena Golf Club in Laguna. The title of my presentation was Application of Turfgrass Science Principles to Improve Grass Conditions. I spoke about modifying the growing environment to create the desired playing characteristics, and we had an excellent discussion about organic matter management on greens, fertilization programs, timing of core aerification, and a range of other topics. Download the seminar handout here [PDF, 172 KB].

This seminar was pre-approved for GCSAA education points as many of the PTA members are also members of the GCSAA. Nicer Landas, CGCS, is the president of the PTA this year and is also one of the few certified golf course superintendents in Asia.

Tim_walker Sta Elena is one of the premier clubs in the Philippines and I had a chance to go around the course with superintendent Tim Walker in the afternoon. Walker gave an introductory presentation about the club, the grasses used, and explained how certain soil conditions and insects are particularly challenging to manage. The course is in excellent condition and the Tifeagle greens, which have been there for more than a decade and are some of the oldest Tifeagle surfaces in Asia, were superb. Like most of the courses built in Southeast Asia during the 1990's, Sta Elena GC is wall-to-wall bermudagrass. 

At Thailand it seems I often play off zoysia or seashore paspalum surfaces, and it was a treat to play off hybrid bermudagrass at Sta Elena. Do you see my ball in the fairway in the photo below? After a staggering drive over a ravine to place the ball there, I proceeded to hit my second shot (this is a par 5, by the way) over the green in the far distance, but I got it up and down for a birdie. I'd like to congratulate the course maintenance team at Sta Elena for producing such good conditions, obviously applying turfgrass science principles to improve grass conditions!