Not just a golf course, but also a turfgrass lab
Making Tracks: A look at golf course irrigation
By Torleif Sorenson on 11/7/12
What is not a mystery is that water-usage for golf course irrigation is becoming a big isssue.  What *is* a mystery is why the United States Golf Association (USGA) decided to start a major conference on sustainable irrigation yesterday (after all, there was a little bit of an election happening!).

Mind-boggling schedule aside, the USGA's water summit began on Tuesday and ends today just outside Dallas. The experts participating include golf course superintendents, USGA Green Section directors, water utility conservation directors, and horticulture professors.

The strange timing of this summit prevented many experts from attending the conference, among them is Brian Horgan, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Turfgrass Science.  Golf architects, course superintendents, and researchers like Dr. Horgan are trying to shape a responsible and sustainable future, so that course maintenance and green fees can be kept at a sane financial level.  Dr. Horgan spoke with us today and provided some enlightening details:
"Of the 137 billion gallons of water used for irrigation in the United States each day, golf course irrigation accounts for 1.5%.  But golfers may be surprised to learn that fairways and rough require more irrigation than greens.

"Our focus has been a multi-faceted approach to water conservation.  One part involves sensor technology - being able to sense and measure water stress before we see it at the surface.  Another critical element is developing and refining turfgrasses that require less water and less input of fertilizers and pesticides.  It will require not just one simple technique."
Because irrigation systems and equipment have limited lifespans, many course owners and superintendents have been trying to stretch the usability of their existing equipment.  Newer irrigation systems provide more than just newer equipment; they also have better sensors and more programming capabilities.  But with the long economic recession, "That's a tough one for people to swallow right now," says Dr. Horgan.

In warmer and more humid climates like Florida, Georgia, California, Hawaii, and southern China, Paspalum has become a popular turfgrass on golf courses.  But in colder regions like Minnesota, researchers like Dr. Horgan are working on strains of turfgrass that can survive with less water and chemical input while surviving the frigid winters.

We at plan to follow these scientific developments, as well as the eagerly-anticipated rebuild of one of the University's very important turfgrass laboratories:  Les Bolstad Golf Course (pictured above).  In fact, the delicious rumor in Minnesota is that native son and University alumnus Tom Lehman will be involved in the redesign.

Stay tuned, and feel free to join the conversation!

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Image via University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

[ comments ]
Backquak says:
I hope they can come up with a grass that grows to be 1-2 inches tall and requires very little water and is cold resistant, then I can plant my yard with it and NOT have to mow anymore.
Dusty23 says:
I think they did come up with that grass, they used to call it Astro Turf
[ post comment ]
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