WCTA 2012 Turfgrass Research Update

12.01.11-WCTA-in-PullmanWA200“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” — Henry Miller

from Jerry Rousseau

Over the last few years, we’ve opted out of printing a separate turfgrass research report realizing a savings of close to $15,000 in that time.  It’s a smart move by the Board as we’ve seen a decline in dollars earmarked for research and it’s provided some time to figure out a new approach toward sourcing additional funding.

It’s important we continue promoting turfgrass research since problems don’t usually go away by themselves and there are more external pressures facing turf managers than ever before.  In the case of the pesticide debate, we have made claim to the provincial government that the golf and turf industry directs significant funds toward turfgrass research which includes reducing our environmental footprint.  With this claim, we need to ensure our money is where our mouth is.

In the past, annual research funding averaged about $30,000 per year which frankly, isn’t a lot considering a single project can easily cost $100,000.  The money we provide comes from fundraising efforts like the Silent Auction, Kwantlen Golf Tournament, donations plus 10% of all member dues and 30% of any excess overall funds at our year end.

The last two years of disbursements reflect the decline in fundraising at $18,224 in 2011 and $23,263 budgeted for 2012.  Reserve funds are close to $75k which is a significant amount but again, not huge considering project costs.

Many research projects are jointly funded which helps to reduce the overall burden on one particular group.  For example, the Canadian Turf Research Foundation (CTRF) collects funds from several provincial groups like the WCTA, rolls it all together and distributes it on a national scale.

Our current priorities for turf research project funding are as follows:

 Nutrient and fertility management, best management practices

 Soil and root-zone management, best management practices

 Evaluation of alternatives to pesticides

 Irrigation and water use issues (water quality and reducing water usage)

 Investigations into the biology, ecology and management of current and emerging pests

 Alternative cultivar and species for new turf construction, integration and conversion into existing turf areas

 Species/cultivar evaluation and improved management practices for areas of heavy traffic and wear tolerance

In other turf research administrative news, the Ontario Turf Research Foundation which in a single golf tournament raises about $40k every year, is trying to streamline the funding application process for researchers by having a one-stop national shop to submit proposals.  The WCTA position is anything that avoids redundancy and duplication is a positive and the more money going to projects rather than administration the better. 

Two of the five 2011 approved projects remain incomplete.  They are:

Institute of Sustainable Horticulture, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Dr. Deborah Henderson

Surveying for microbial entomopathogens for the three major turfgrass pests: European Chafer, European Cranefly and Cutworm and a literature and knowledge review to better understand management of Cranefly damage.




CURRENT STATUS: The Ontario Ministry of Environment is currently conducting research on controlling cranefly larvae with nematodes so this survey was put on hold in anticipation of their report.  In the meantime, Dr. Henderson reports having much more meaningful data from turf samples over what they had last spring.  A final report is expected by September.  $5000 in funding will be disbursed once the report is received.  

Evaluation of performance and safety factors of artificial turf surfaces in the south coastal region, Dr. Brian Holl

The objectives of this project are to develop a database on the condition and performance of synthetic turf surfaces of different types and ages relative to natural grass.  The assessment includes measurement of the following field characteristics (selected primarily from the FIFA Quality Concept Handbook) on natural grass and synthetic fields at sites across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island: • Hardness (Clegg Impact tester) 

• Ball rebound

• Ball roll

• Surface regularity

 PROJECT LENGTH:              1 year*


 PROJECT VALUE:               $11,100 CURRENT

STATUS:  A variety of challenges were encountered with this project primarily as a result of issues experienced by the principal investigator (Brian Holl).  The ‘physical’ work of making the specific field measurements is now complete.  As a generalization, synthetic fields are generally harder, faster, ‘bouncier’ and more uniform than natural grass.  The questionnaire component is based on a similar survey that was used to assess the perceptions of field user groups using fields for Australian Rules Football.  The format was changed from the original hardcopy proposal to an electronic version to facilitate circulation and reduce cost; it has not been circulated because of the timing relative to that change.  Ideally, the survey would be completed during the normal fall/winter season – it will be available for user groups to respond in the upcoming season.  The final report will be completed in early 2013; $3300 of the $6600 WCTA commitment has been distributed.

*This project was originally put forward in 2006 and had been approved for funding but was put on hold part way through the project at the request of Dr. Holl.

2011 Special Project – Whistler Golf Club Snow Mold Trial

Last fall while attending the Lower Mainland BCGSA windup at the Whistler Golf Club, I learned from Assistant Superintendent Stuart Carmichael that the course was planning a full greens renovation the following spring and would not be applying fall fungicide. 

It was immediately obvious this was an incredibly rare opportunity to undertake a snow mold trial project but because it was already late September, we had to move quickly.  Scott Mitchell, then WCTA President took the lead role in coordinating with course Superintendent, Dave Gottselig and Stuart Carmichael and an impromptu project was born. 

The original idea was to determine the potential of using phosphites for Fusarium control but it quickly expanded to include Civitas and Instrata.   Oregon State University had seen success with phosphite application but a real Canadian winter was needed to test the theory.

With such a project, the work was almost entirely shouldered by the Whistler Golf Club however support was received from Terralink Horticulture and Syngenta.  Whistler GC staff did a fantastic job ensuring the trial was as scientific as possible and Stuart’s final report was extremely interesting and will written.  It can be found (along with photos) at: http://www.wcta-online.com/turfgrass-research/item/192-whistler-golf-club-snow-mold-trial-project

The WCTA Research Committee would like acknowledge the efforts of Dave, Stuart and the Whistler Golf Club for undertaking this trial and sharing the results all while busy renovating their greens.  Demonstration projects as they were once called, have become nearly extinct as most turf managers have become so busy at their facilities, there isn’t much time left for research projects.  Not to mention, who wants a bunch of dead grass!

2012 Projects:

Project Title: Canadian Turf Research Foundation Cooperative Funding

The CTRF collects and distributes research monies much like the WCTA but on a National Scale.  We have contributed to this collaborative approach to research funding annually since 1992. 

PROJECT LENGTH:   multiple projects / varies



Projects funded by the CTRF in 2012 include:

i)  University of Guelph Dr.’s Goodwin and Hsiang’s project titled ‘Defense Activators as an Alternative to Pesticides for Controlling Turfgrass Diseases’ is valued at $25,000 per year for two years. The purpose of the work is to investigate an organic control strategy for turfgrass diseases by stimulating the inherent ability of plants to resist pathogen attack. Past research has found that resistance can be induced in susceptible plants by microorganisms and their metabolites or by synthetic analogs of natural products. The benefits of such an approach could be enormous as the industry and society trends away from traditional synthetic pesticides.

ii)  Tompkins, Fry, Ross and Anderson of the Prairie Turfgrass Research Centre based out of Olds College will build on previous winter turf survival work through a project called ‘Evaluation of Ventilation Systems under Winter Covers to Prevent Injury from Anoxia on Annual Bluegrass Putting Greens’ valued at $18,000. The project stems from testing done at the Glendale Golf Club where clever systems have been installed (in winter) using roof turbines to blow air through pipes laid under impermeable covers on greens to mitigate any toxic gas build-up. The goal is to develop a simple and inexpensive system that can be used at all courses that have chronic ice damage issues.

Project Title: Evaluation of Alternative Management Strategies to Reduce or Eliminate the Use of Fungicides for Control of Microdochium Patch, Oregon State University

More money is spent on fungicides to control Microdochium patch than any other turfgrass disease in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest United States. Turfgrass managers continue to be scrutinized when it comes to pesticide use for the control of problematic turf pests. This project will evaluate cultural practices as well as new alternative products that have shown potential to control Microdochium patch. Each component will be evaluated individually and upon completion of the two year research project be integrated into a complete management program for the control of Microdochium patch with the intent of greatly reducing or eliminating fungicide use.




CURRENT STATUS: With the departure of Dr Rob Golembiewski from OSU, all non-initiated projects were put on hold until a new professor was hired.  Funding has not been disbursed as we await word from OSU.

Project Title: Investigation of the Okanagan Valley Resident Canada Goose Sub-population to Assist with Strategic Goose Management

Our goal is to investigate the resident (i.e. non-migratory) sub-population of Canada geese that reside within the Okanagan Valley. Our study will help determine how geese use the valley spatially and temporally. In doing so we expect to discover a) if the population is closed (e.g. new geese do not immigrate into or emigrate from the population, and population growth occurs from locally nesting birds), b) if the goose population seasonally fluctuates due to migration patterns of non-resident geese (e.g. do migratory Canada geese that have nested in northern Canada boost the valley sub-population during spring and fall migration or winter?), and c) if the valley goose sub-population uses the entire valley or if geese restrict their movements to specific areas (e.g. do geese in specific communities use only the respective community region or do they migrate along the valley and to what extent?). Understanding these questions will be extremely advantageous to designing and implementing management techniques to alleviate conflict with resident Canada geese and reduce goose-related damage and management costs.




CURRENT STATUS: $1250 has been distributed and the project is in progress.

Future for Turf Research in Western Canada

 In the spirit of cooperation and better communication, last year the Board voted to offer the Northwest Turf Association and the BC Golf Superintendents Association seats on the Research Committee.  The BCGSA accepted our invitation immediately with the addition of Stephen Kerbrat, Superintendent of the Smithers Golf Club and more recently, the NTA put forward John Anderson from the Hayden Lake Country Club in Idaho.  As well, an industry spot was created and has been taken on by Ladd Legeyt of AAT Direct Solutions.  Welcome John and Ladd! 

We have mentioned that researchers are not always aware of real world issues and what is concerning turf managers.  Goals of the Research Committee include:

• improve communication with local researchers so they know our priorities.  These priorities need to come directly from the WCTA membership.

• be proactive regarding hot topics.

• direct funding to projects that maximize value of dollars spent and have the best chance to provide solutions to problems.

To accomplish our turf research goals, annual funding (currently around $20,000 each of the last two years) needs to be on par with Alberta and Ontario ($200-250k annually).  To help achieve this, a document called The Need to Support Turf Research was created and presented to the BC Allied Golf Association in 2011 and we remain hopeful that our golf allies will commit to higher levels of support.  To view the document, click on this link: http://www.wcta-online.com/turfgrass-research/item/22-the-need-to-support-turfgrass-research .  We also hope that this same approach could be utilized in the sportsfield side, ie.  soliciting user groups.

We would like to thank all of our Turfgrass Researchers and of course all Turf Research donors and Silent Auction contributors, without whom our Turf Research program simply would not exist.  Please note that the Western Canada Turfgrass Association accepts no responsibility in respect to the opinions and data expressed in the editorial material or outcome of the research projects.  The views do not necessarily represent the views of the Association.

SPECIAL NOTE:  As many of you already know, long time Kootenay Superintendent Len Heyworth passed away on May 8 from cancer.  His wish in lieu of flowers, was for friends to donate to WCTA Turf Research.  We’re very pleased to report that$1700 was raised in Len’s name - thank you all who supported Len's wish.