$2.3M Grant Announced for Turfgrass Research

13.05.27-PTRC.logoBy Jim Ross
Prairie Turgrass Research Centre

Recently, we received word that our grant application called, ‘Sustainable Turfgrass Management in the Canadian Prairie Provinces” was approved for funding.  The $2.3M grant is for five years and is an award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), a federal granting agency in Canada.

When informed of the decision, Alberta Turfgrass Research Foundation President, Daryl Asher stated, “This is tremendous news!  We will now be able to move forward on our plans to expand our research program in Alberta and western Canada.”

Many other Superintendents, turfgrass managers and research personnel sent congratulatory wishes to us and we are grateful for all the support that was received prior to and during the application process.

14.05.06-PTRC.grant.imageFigure 1 - Funding for this project will allow for an increase in plots tours and seminars similar to the picture above.

So what does this mean for turfgrass research?

One of our first orders of business will be to hire a Lead Scientist for turfgrass research.  This individual will have the main responsibility to oversee the research program and institute new initiatives.  It is expected this individual will have considerable experience in turfgrass research and will be somewhat familiar with the challenges faced by growers in western Canada.

“We would like to have someone in this position as soon as possible,” said Tanya McDonald Associate Vice President at Olds College Centre for Innovation.  “We expect this summer to be a busy time for turfgrass research and our search for this individual needs to begin right away.”  The process for doing this will be to advertise throughout North America and then interview candidates for the position.  “It is hoped that we can have someone in place by July1.”

In addition to the Lead Scientist, a post-doctoral fellow will also be hired.  A ‘Post-Doc’ is a recent Ph. D. graduate and this individual will form part of the research team.  Instructors at Olds College, Dr. Darrell Tompkins, Dr. Ken Fry and Jason Pick, will also form part of this research team and they will support the new hires during the orientation period.  In addition, they will be involved in the implementation of student research projects within the turfgrass curriculum at Olds College.

In year one to three, the budget for turfgrass research will more than double from current funding levels and will total more than $600,000 in each of the first three years.  In addition to salaries, this funding allows for equipment purchases, supplies and information dissemination to the end-users in the turfgrass industry.

“One of the reasons for the success of this grant was the high level of industry support,” stated Asher.  “We were able to secure more than $100,000 from industry in year one and we expect that this will grow over the next five years.”

  Figure 1 - Funding for this project will allow for an increase in plots tours and seminars similar to the picture above.

The application pointed out that this research is necessary due to the fact that the turfgrass industry in the Prairie Provinces is estimated to generate an economic impact of somewhere between $1.6-2.2B.  Technological advancements are necessary in the industry to support growers and homeowners as they encounter increased pressures to maintain their turf in an environmentally acceptable manner.  The social and recreational uses of turf are many and varied and it is difficult to imagine our lives without turf. 

The actual research will focus on the following research themes: strategies to reduce winter injury, biotic stress management in sod, recreational turf and lawns, species/biotype selection for alternative turf uses, and water quality and conservation.  With funding received from industry, there has already been research activity in some of these research areas.  This research grant will allow for significant expansion of the research in these areas.

The next few months will be critical as we institute the changes to the program and as Asher pointed out, “Research is so important to us in the industry…it allows us to continue to make improvements at our golf course that are based on science.”