April 18, 2014

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Welcome Spring

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It’s that moment we’ve been waiting for all winter.  Only a couple of snow piles left.  Lawns starting to green up.  All of this bottled up excitement from four long winter months is ready to burst in the form of fertilizing, mowing, seeding…..all that fun yard work.  Yes, I said fun yard work.  Spring is a time of the year when lawn care enthusiasts and turf geeks get really charged up.  I’m so excited that I even gave the shed door an extra hard shut this year after putting the snow blower away, and I have absolutely no intention of looking at that thing again for the next eight months.  It’s lawn care season now! 

Finally, spring is here and lawn care is just around the corner.  It’s still a bit early to get out the mower and fertilizer spreader, but be sure to start thinking your lawn care program for this season.  For some of you this might mean planting and encouraging lower maintenance species in your landscapes.  For others, lawn rehabilitation might be required after the roller coaster ride that mother nature has had us on over the last couple of years.  

University of Minnesota Extension’s resources are a great place to start when considering lawn care.  Here are a couple sites to have a look at:

Lawn Care and Turfgrass Management: www.extension.umn.edu/turfgrass

Yard and Garden News: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/efans/ygnews/

Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series: http://www.sustland.umn.edu/

Please feel free to email or call with any questions related to lawn care and turfgrass management: sjbauer@umn.edu, 763-767-3518.  We look forward to a most excellent growing season and wish you all a happy spring. 


Golf Courses Can Play a Role in Increasing Pollinator Habitat


Photo: Karl Foord

By Jack MacKenzie, Executive Director of the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendent’s Association (Reprinted from Hole Notes magazine with permission from MGCSA).

“You’re dead!” I exclaimed with glee, releasing the trigger and looking for another victim.  It was late in the day and I had about twenty minutes left in my tank.  For eight hours, I had been selecting my prey and had finally succumbed to the exhaustion only felt after dragging hundreds of feet of ½ inch hose in the sweltering heat.  Earlier on I had my handgun smoothly applying a three-way herbicide over large areas of property.  Now, tired, I was force-feeding individual plants a toxic over-dose of poison nectar.  One by one, the bright yellow weeds were sent to the land of epinastic fits.  “You’re dead!”

In hind sight, my aim was perhaps too good, for over time the harbingers of spring were slowly eradicated from the White Bear Yacht Club, then Austin Country Club, The Lost Spur and other clubs I worked at.  Not unlike the 13-stripe ground squirrel, dandelions had met their match and were being eradicated from golf courses.

Flash-forward to today; I suddenly have a strong compassion for the colorful spring flower.  As your representative upon the Garden and Landscape Pollinator work group, I have learned a lot about the plight of our pollinating insects, without which our food supply could be in jeopardy.  Our first meeting, held earlier this month, brought together concerned citizens, beekeepers, park and city managers, nursery growers and the golf course industry.  Our mission is to create a reasonable approach to enhancing our bee and pollinator population.

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Chill Out: Vegetation Reduces the Urban Heat Island Effect

By Madeline Leslie, Graduate Research Assistant

Urban Heat

Photo: Sam Bauer

In many places around the country heat waves during the summer are commonplace; a time when most people thankfully take advantage of indoor air-conditioning and access to nearby lakes or pools. However, as those of us in urban areas know, we frequently have to deal with average temperatures that are higher than surrounding areas, a condition commonly referred to as the urban heat island (UHI) effect. This problem is likely to only become worse in the future, as climate change raises average global temperatures and urban populations increase. Unfortunately heat waves are not just uncomfortable events; they can have serious consequences. Excessive heat can have negative effects on human health in multiple different ways, resulting in illness and even death. In addition, there are other social, environmental, and economic costs associated with high temperatures, including increased violent crime rates and global warming emissions related to higher energy usage from air conditioning systems. A recent study, Ecosystem services and urban heat riskscape moderation: water, green spaces, and social inequality in Phoenix, USA [1], sought to find out what groups of people are most affected by high temperatures and also looked at a way to reduce the risk of heat exposure in urban areas.

The authors of this study specifically wanted to find out if greater vegetation cover in the Phoenix metropolitan areas has been correlated over the past 30 years with a reduction in temperatures in specific areas. In addition the authors also investigated the potential cost of using water to reduce temperatures in urban areas, and the relationship between income levels, elevated temperatures, and vegetation cover. They did this by looking at local weather station records, satellite images collected as part of the Landsat program, and median household income from US census data.

The results showed that vegetation cover provided significant cooling ecosystem services, which were most pronounced in the summer and less pronounced in the winter. Additionally, strong relationships were found between income levels, cooling ecosystem services, and the amount of water needed to provide these services. Lower income areas tended to have less vegetation cover, a pattern which did not exist in 1970 but has been increasing over the past three decades. This points towards a growing disparity between wealthy and poor neighborhoods in terms of vulnerability to heat-related health risks.

The findings of this study are very relevant to those in the turfgrass industry and related horticultural fields. Clearly there is a need around the country to mitigate the risks of high temperatures in urban spaces. This becomes a social justice issue in places like Phoenix, where low-income areas do not have the same access to the cooling effects of vegetated landscapes as higher-income areas. Turfgrass varieties that can survive in hot environments with low amounts of water could be very beneficial in parks and on private property, especially in areas where individuals do not have the resources to maintain landscapes that require high amounts of inputs. In this way, access to the cooling benefits of vegetative cover can be made accessible to people in all income levels , rather than only some.

New Series: Making Sense of the Science

As scientists and researchers we constantly strive to publish our work in peer-reviewed journals and there are many reasons for this.  The element of peer-review is a validation of the quality of the research conducted and the results that are presented.  In university settings, we often gauge the success of a researcher by the number of scientific articles that they have listed on a curriculum vitae.  These publications add to the scholarship of a discipline and are often used as new intellectual building blocks for specific areas within the discipline.  

The problem: peer-review publications and scientific articles can often be mind-numbing to read…..yes even to us researchers……and the results are often difficult to apply in a practical setting.  With practicality in mind we have started this new series on Making Sense of the Science.  In each edition, a member of our turfgrass science group (or students from turfgrass management class) will choose a scientific article and provide their summary and interpretation of the article.  We feel this will be a great way to bridge the gap between research and the real world, ultimately allowing new scientific knowledge to used by those that need it the most.  

We hope you enjoy this new series.  Below is the first post by Ph.D. candidate Josh Friell. 

The More, the Merrier: Improving Ecosystem Services of Turfgrass Through Species Diversity

By Josh Friell, Ph.D. candidate

It seems nowadays that we are bombarded with messages about the need to maintain ecosystem services and function…that we need to maintain biodiversity because it’s good for the ecosystem being studied. In fact, it probably seems like they’re so ubiquitous that they’ve become just more buzz words used to grab attention or sell a product.  But what does that really mean? Are these things actually being measured, and if so what is the measurement? Well, I suppose that depends. One of the benefits of turfgrass that we often tout is its ability to significantly reduce soil erosion – that is, perform an ecosystem service. But what types of data support that? Certainly there are measurements of soil loss from plots through runoff, but that’s just the result of erosion that has already occurred. Erosion is actually a function of soil aggregation and deflocculation – that is, how well the soil particles stick together or how quickly they fall apart. The greater the aggregate strength, the less soil erosion we tend to see. So does increasing biodiversity really improve this ecosystem service? That’s exactly what the authors of a recent study – Mechanisms linking plant community properties to soil aggregate stability in an experimental grassland plant diversity gradient1 – set out to show.

To accomplish this, plots were planted with a random combination of 1, 4, or 16 species. The plant species used were categorized into one of four plant functional groups including grasses, small herbs, tall herbs, and legumes. Soil samples were taken that could be analyzed for aggregate stability using a number of wetting methods including fast wetting, slow wetting, and wetting with shaking to simulate the mechanical wear induced by raindrop impact. Earthworm biomass, root biomass, soil organic carbon, and soil microbial biomass were considered in the analysis, but the primary factor of interest was plant species richness.

By and large, the factors affecting soil aggregate stability were consistent across all measures of stability. In addition, it was evident that the presence of grasses in the mixtures significantly increased soil aggregate stability while the presence of legumes generally decreased stability. Although the affect of grass species diversity was not evaluated, it can be generalized from the data that increased diversity of any type is good in one way or another. The effect of grass on aggregate stability was primarily attributed to an increase in root biomass, but their diversity is also known to increase microbial populations and diversity and likely affects extracellular enzyme concentrations and function.

In this study it was shown that grasses can indeed lead to a decrease in soil erosion by acting at the aggregate level. This has a number of implications for our industry. First and foremost it lends further credence to our continuing claim that we can reduce soil erosion by establishing turfgrass. Also, it highlights the clear lack of specific scientific knowledge pertaining to the effect of turf sward species richness on ecosystem service provision. Future work in this area, in combination with other recent studies surrounding microbial populations and alternative species use can provide a direction for future research towards identifying improved turfgrass ecology practices.


1 Pérès, G., D. Cluzeau, S. Menasseri, J.F. Soussana, H. Bessler, C. Engels, M. Habekost, G. Gleixner, A. Weigelt, W.W. Weisser, S. Scheu, and N. Eisenhauer. 2013. Mechanisms linking plant community properties to soil aggregate stability in an experimental grassland plant diversity gradient. Plant Soil 373 (1-2): 285–299.

Melting Ice on Putting Greens

Dr. Kevin W. Frank, Michigan State University

Andrew Hollman, Dr. Brian Horgan, & Sam Bauer, University of Minnesota

When given lemons make lemonade.  When given an ice sheet, conduct an ice melt study.  On January 31 at the Hancock Turfgrass Research Center (HTRC) at MSU we conducted an ice melting study in cooperation with Dr. Brian Horgan, Andrew Hollman, and Sam Bauer from the University of Minnesota.  We tested 20 products for their ability to melt ice.  Conditions during our treatment window which began at approximately 11 am and concluded at 5:30 pm had temperatures hovering around 25 °F and constant cloud cover.  The treatments can be broken down into three general categories:

Standard Chemicals/Salts (all application rates 28 lbs./1000 ft.2)

1. Calcium chloride

2. Sodium chloride

3. Potassium chloride

4. Magnesium chloride

‘Safer’ ice melt products (all application rates 28 lbs./1000 ft.2)

5. Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA)

6. Sodium acetate (NAAC)

7. Enviro Melt (carbonyl diamide/urea)

8. Safe Paws (modified amide/glycol admixture)

9. Paw Thaw (CMA and fertilizer)

10. Tenderfoot Ice Melter (urea and DeFrost)

11. Ammonium sulfate

Solar Absorption Products (dark colored)

12. Milorganite greens grade (56 lbs./1000 ft.2)

13. Sustane greens grade (40 lbs./1000 ft.2)

14. Top Cut biosolids SGN 90 (53 lbs./1000 ft.2)

15. Top Cut SGN 200 (53 lbs./1000 ft.2)

16. Top Cut + DeFrost SGN 200 (53 lbs./1000 ft.2)

17. BioDac + DeFrost SGN 200 (47 lbs./1000 ft.2)

18. BioDac + DeFrost + Colorant SGN200 (47 lbs./1000 ft.2)

19. Eon 75 humic acid (47 lbs./1000 ft.2)

20. Black sand (100 lbs./1000 ft.2)

[Read more...]

Class has started, but we’ve reopened registration until Sunday March 7th, 2014: The Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science (Fully Online)

You asked for it, and here it is: 2014 Great Lakes School of Turfgrass Science Online.

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Roger Stewart Earns National Environmental Honor


Roger Stewart, CGCS

Courtesy of the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America (www.gcsaa.org)

Roger Stewart, certified golf course superintendent (CGCS) at TPC Twin Cities in St. Paul, Minn., has been selected to receive the 2014 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship by the board of directors of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

Stewart will officially receive the award Wednesday, Feb. 5, during the Opening Session at the 2014 Golf Industry Show in Orlando (Feb. 1-6). The Opening Session is being presented in partnership with Syngenta.

A 38-year member of GCSAA, Stewart has accumulated an impressive array of environmental accomplishments at each stop along a nearly four-decade career as a golf course superintendent. Since joining the TPC network of courses in 1996, he has served as a leader and a resource on environmental matters across all 33 TPC courses, and has been equally involved in issues on the local level through leadership in numerous superintendent chapters.

“GCSAA members such as Roger Stewart set a shining example for all superintendents through the positive environmental stewardship he has displayed during his career,” says GCSAA President Patrick R. Finlen, CGCS. “His openness and willingness to share what he has learned with others has been a benefit to our entire industry, and we’re pleased to honor him for his many accomplishments.”

Stewart’s first stop in the TPC system was as the grow-in superintendent at TPC Jasna Polana in Princeton, N.J. He worked diligently throughout the construction process to protect the water sources and native wildlife habitat that surround the environmentally sensitive site. Under his direction, Jasna Polana was certified as both an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International and a River Friendly Golf Course through the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association.

After moving to TPC Twin Cities in 2008, Stewart continued his stewardship efforts. He recertified the property as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. He oversaw work on surface water areas that included stream bank stabilization, the enhancement of wildlife habitat areas and a naturalized planting project. Stewart also focused on the expansion of low-maintenance areas, and the reduction of irrigation water use, and TPC Twin Cities has regularly ranked among the leaders in low energy use among golf courses in the greater Minneapolis area.

The GCSAA President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship was established in 1991 to recognize “an exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf; a contribution that further exemplifies the golf course superintendent’s image as a steward of the land.” For a full list of past winners, visit www.gcsaa.org/community/awards.

About GCSAA and the EIFG

GCSAA is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to nearly 18,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Find GCSAA on Facebook, follow GCSAA on Twitter, and visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org. The Environmental Institute for Golf is the philanthropic organization of the GCSAA, and has as its mission to foster sustainability through research, awareness, education, programs and scholarships for the benefit of golf course management professionals, golf facilities and the game. Visit www.eifg.org.

Fine fescue performance under traffic stress on golf courses


Fine fescue fairway plots in St. Paul before traffic treatments. Maggie Reiter

By Maggie Reiter, Graduate Research Assistant

Fescues continue to grow in popularity as a low-input golf course turfgrass. There are plenty of fine fescue roughs and it would be difficult to find a course built in the 21st century without fine fescue designed in unmowed or rough areas. In spite of this, there are only a handful of entirely fine fescue courses. Based on input from some industry stakeholders, golf course superintendents have been hesitant to use these species for short-grass surfaces.

Poor traffic tolerance is a major qualm with using fescue. Limited research has been conducted on these alternative species for golf cart traffic. In the past few years, hard fescue (Festuca brevipila) has shown to function well for traffic tolerance and recovery, followed by Chewings fescue (Festuca rubra ssp. fallax) and sheep fescue (Festuca ovina). Data from the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) presents several fine fescue cultivars with excellent turf quality when maintained at fairway mowing heights and subjected to traffic stress. Promising NTEP data collected from recent trials in Minnesota indicates that both slender creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra ssp. litoralis) and strong creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra ssp. rubra) should also be investigated for use on golf course fairways. Although the slow growth rate reduces mowing frequency, injury recovery from traffic is longer. Entire fescue courses are often walk-only to diminish golf cart wear.

Recent breeding efforts have improved performance under traffic and continue to advance. Current studies at the University of Minnesota are evaluating mixtures of fine fescue species for performance under traffic stress. Data will be collected on traffic effects, recovery times, and plant growth regulator impacts.

These fescues are emerging in the United States as a worthy alternative with reduced inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Still, the research is not comprehensive enough to soothe superintendents’ trepidations and breeding work needs to focus on the durability under traffic.


Plot of ‘Beacon’ hard fescue without traffic on the left half and simulated golf cart traffic on the right half. Maggie Reiter


Smart Gardens Radio Show 11/30/13 Podcast Available

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