Ontario Turfgrass Research Foundation Update

By: Reg Langen, OTRF Board of Directors

The Ontario Turfgrass Research Foundation (OTRF) is a charitable foundation dedicated to helping fund research projects that will assist the turf management industry.

The primary focus of these research projects is to provide improved products, practices and understandings of turfgrass manager’s challenges to increase efficiency, limit environmental impact and ensure economic sustainability of turf management operations in Ontario.

OTRF works closely with key industry stakeholders annually to review research proposals and evaluate which proposals would provide the most value to turf managers’ most current issues, as well as have the most significant impact to the OTRF’s primary focus. Over the past 15 years, the OTRF has provided over two million dollars in research grants to turfgrass research projects. In 2019, OTRF is excited to have awarded funding to five promising projects, at a total value of $75,000. Two of these projects have also been co-funded by the Quebec Turfgrass Research Foundation.

At Rutgers University, Dr. James Murphy and Dr. Bruce Clarke are addressing the ability to utilize a threshold-based fungicide program on bentgrass fairways and will establish the dollar spot susceptibility across different common cultivars. Budgets are tighter than ever and this project has a specific focus on the economic impact of cultivar selection when managing dollar spot. Research such as this would be a great asset to turf managers looking to select a cultivar for bentgrass fairways who are faced with a restricted budget in their unique operation.

One of the up and coming trends in turf management is the utilization of biological controls and beneficial fungi to improve turf quality, and reduce fertilizer and water inputs.  This is the focus of Dr. Manish Raizasda’s research at University of Guelph. Dr. Raizasda is evaluating the usage of probiotics to reduce the water and nitrogen utilization when seeding new turfgrass . In this study, natural occurring turf microbes will be used as seed coating to reduce the necessary inputs of fertilizer and water when establish turf from seed, the time when the largest inputs of water and fertility are needed. 

Dr. Katrina Jordan has received OTRF funds for two different projects, both based out of the University of Guelph. Dr. Jordan is attempting to improve our understanding of the biology and management tactics for Take-All Patch in Canada caused by Sloeiomyces Cylindosporus, a new fungus causing take-all conditions in Canadian turfgrass. This study will focus on how to better manage the causes of the disease and improve a researcher’s ability to inoculate this fungus for further research studies.

Dr. Jordan’s second project is focussed on the usage of biosolids for improving soil health, fertility and disease management. The biosolids selected for this project are the solid organic waste remaining from wastewater treatment plants that are typically destined to landfill sites. These biosolids are rich in nitrogen and could be beneficial to a turf manager’s tool kit, as supplemental applications of inorganic nitrogen sources. Dr. Jordan will also be analyzing the benefit or negative impact these applications could have on long term soil health and disease development.

The fifth research project being supported by the OTRF, is work being conducted by DSC and Associates’ Pam Charbonneau. Ms. Charbonneau is developing a rating system for the maximum usage of sports fields before a significant decline and/or failure is seen particularly on municipal soccer fields. Many municipalities have challenges managing sports field turf due to the high usage by residents and user groups. The goal of the project is to develop a set of guidelines to aid municipal field managers a justification for limiting the usage of sports fields. This set of guidelines will benefit both the turf managers as well as the end users with improved and safer field conditions. 

The OTRF is excited to see the upcoming progress of these projects and the value they will bring to the turfgrass management industry. If you have an interest in reviewing the OTRF’s previously funded research, would like updates on current research, submit a research proposal application or want to learn more about how to support the OTRF, please visit the website at www.otrf.ca for more details.