ON SIGHT- A Directional Pivot for Member-Driven Research
In the winter of 2012/13, the MGCSA membership embarked on a new research initiative with the University of Minnesota’s Turfgrass Science Program titled Member-Driven Research. Member-Driven Research was created whereby the members would help determine the projects we would conduct. Since 2013, this collaborative effort has led to innovative studies on topics such as using growing degree-days to precisely schedule an application of plant growth regulators, wetting agent influences on surface performance, and strategies to minimize or overcome the impacts of winter damage; such as bentgrass germination in low temperatures and variety freezing tolerance of common and alternative turfgrass species. These studies are on the leading edge of turfgrass research in northern climates, something that the MGCSA should be very proud of. We showcase this research through five regional Outreach events across Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, as well as In-reach events in the Twin Cities. In addition, this research is published in Hole Notes, Golf Course Management, Golf Course Industry, Green Section Record and in various peer-reviewed scientific journals.
As researchers we strive to produce timely results that can be implemented in your day-to-day management programs. To have confidence in our recommendations, we require our research to be replicated both in space (more than one location) and time (more than one year). Through replication we Identify impact of weather, soil types, management programs, ect… To that end, it can often take us researchers some time to “catch up” to the innovative practices that you are “studying” on a daily basis at your properties. While we continue down the path of cutting edge research in long-term studies, such as degradation of wetting agent chemistries over time based on temperature, we (and the membership) had the desire to get back to the heart of the Member-Driven Research initiative, that being quick, practical studies determined by the membership.
At the biennial MGCSA Board of Directors Retreat, U of M floated the idea of ON SIGHT research to the board. The idea is simple- golf course superintendents, assistant superintendents, or management staff can submit research ideas through an intake form on the MGCSA website. Our program will evaluate these ideas and coordinate with superintendents to carry out these studies on their golf courses. We would help you design a trial to study your research question and put some ownership back on you to take pictures and collect data. Superintendents will then communicate back to us on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for the duration of the study. The opportunities here are endless and this is a great way to learn about innovative strategies from your peers.
To get the ON SIGHT research off the ground in the first year, we solicited the Board of Directors for study ideas, some of the topics identified for ON SIGHT research included:
- Protecting annual bluegrass from winter injury
- Syringing of putting greens as a means of plant cooling
- Moss control on putting greens
- Fungicide efficacy on the duration of dollar spot suppression
- Late-fall plant growth regulator applications
- Bentgrass variety germination in cold temperatures
We are excited about this pivot in direction and we will keep the membership updated through Hole Notes articles and a blog housed on the MGCSA website and at turf.umn.edu. Look for this information and the study intake form in the near future.
Our first study of the year is already underway and it came about from the recent warming trend that spanned almost a week in mid-February. Annual bluegrass comes out of dormancy earlier than creeping bentgrass in the spring and this February heat wave caused a concern of dormant annual bluegrass waking up from winter. When grasses come out of dormancy they take in water and subfreezing temperatures following this can cause death by crown hydration. As a superintendent, there no opportunities to keep annual bluegrass in dormancy (covering prior to the warm up would only encourage growth), but is there anything you can do to protect it from the impending cold? Brent Belanger (U of M GC Superintendent) and Erin McManus (Medina CC Superintendent) were kind enough to allow us space to put covers on annual bluegrass at their properties prior to the freeze in late-February. We are evaluating two different cover styles- Excelsior covers and Evergreen covers, with and without a reapplication of contact fungicide for snow mold prevention.
Stay tuned as we continue with ON SIGHT research this spring and thank you for your continued support.
UMN Turfgrass Science Team