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GPS Sprayer Demonstration

July 15, 2011

Turf managers have curiously watched and anxiously waited for technology currently used in agriculture to be scaled down for utilization in turf.  GPS and auto steer on tractors, combines, and sprayers have allowed farmers to navigate fields for better coverage in less time, perform site-specific management, accurately monitor yield, increase spray efficiency, reduce fuel consumption, and even work through the night.

It was only a matter of time.  Iowa State Turfgrass researchers have performed a dual demonstration of GPS turf-sprayer technology at the Horticulture Farm.  The results of the demonstration will be on display at the Iowa Turfgrass Field Day on July 21, 2011 at the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station.   

The objective of the dual demonstration was to test the accuracy of the GPS sprayers.  Two simulated “greens” were outlined in spray paint and glyphosate was applied by two different sprayers within the two painted areas.  The premise was easy: kill the grass inside the spray paint.  The task, however, was much more difficult. 

Steve Willey of Capstan Turf Systems brought out a Toro sprayer outfitted with Capstan's sprayer technology for the trial.  Capstan offers three modules of aftermarket technology, and all three were used during the demonstration.  Click here to learn more about Capstan and their products.

Van Wall John Deere retrofitted a sprayer for Tim Van Loo of ISU Athletics with GPS technology for use on Iowa State's athletic fields.  Mr. Van Loo repeated the process for the second part of the demo.  Van Wall's website can be accessed here.

Keep in mind the two sprayers used in the demonstration weren't exactly the same units and that this was not a head-to-head competition.  Reel and rotary mowers work differently and so do these sprayers.  This demonstration was merely a showcase of GPS sprayer technology that is available.  

Watch a short video below to see the Capstan sprayer technology in action.  The sprayer demonstrations and companies involved in will be in attendance at the Turfgrass Field Day.

Quincy Law

ISU Turfgrass Research Associate




Measuring Green Speed with iOS Devices

February 21, 2012

 Marcus Jones, PhD, Iowa State University and
 Quincy Law, Graduate Student, Purdue University 


The iStimp App
By now, you have probably heard of the iStimp, an app developed by, to measure green speed. The iStimp is available to anyone who has an iOS device such as an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad for a nominal fee of $0.99. A stimpmeter reading is obtained by rolling a golf ball off the iOS device and measuring the distance the ball travels with a built in ruler. The iStimp application then uses algorithms to generate a stimpmeter value.

With over 250 million iOS devices sold to the public, the iStimp may have already appeared at your facility. If not, chances are you will at some point in the future. The question is, does the iStimp produce stimpmeter readings equivalent to what you generate with the USGA stimpmeter? A study conducted at Iowa State University set out to answer that question.

How we did it
Our study was conducted on a practice putting green at a local area golf course. The turf was a mixture of creeping bentgrass and annual bluegrass mowed at 0.125 inches.  Wind speed was negligible during the test.

Stimpmeter readings were obtained using the iStimp app with an iPad 2, iPhone 4, and iPod touch 4th generation. The USGA stimpmeter was included as a control along with a research stimpmeter which is known to produce equivalent stimpmeter readings.

Three people, each with varying experience using stimpmeters, operated each device. All accessories (cases, ect.) were removed from each iOS device with the exception of screen protectors.

A level area of the green was selected and a tee was inserted at the end of the measurement device. Three golf balls were released, one at a time, from each device according to the guidelines suggested by the manufacturer. Titleist Pro VI golf balls, each weighing within one gram of the others, were used in this study.

The distance each golf ball traveled was measured from the end of each device to the front of the golf ball. The built in ruler function was used with the iOS devices and a measuring tape was used to record ball roll for the USGA and research stimpmeters. This length was recorded for each golf ball and the average obtained. The same three golf balls were rolled in the opposite direction along a similar line and the same measurements and calculations performed.

Accuracy of the iStimp
The green speed of the putting surface was 12 feet according to the USGA stimpmeter (Figure 1). This device is the only tool accepted by the USGA to measure green speed. The research stimpmeter produced a statistically similar reading of 11.8 feet. Research stimpmeters have proven to yield green speed values similar to the USGA device. The fact that the USGA and research stimpmeters produced statistically similar values in our experiment verifies our technique.

The three iOS devices equipped with the iStimp app failed to produce stimpmeter values similar to the USGA device (Figure 1). The iStimp application when utilized on the iPad 2 underestimated stimpmeter readings by 9%. In contrast, the iStimp application overestimated stimpmeter readings on the iPhone 4, and iPod touch 4th Gen. by 21 and 16%, respectively.

Figure 1. Stimpmeter readings for five devices used to measure putting green speed.  Columns with different letter are statistically different.  Note: Stimpmeter readings are listed in feet: 14.5 = 14’6”.

If golfers approach you and want to discuss stimpmeter readings obtained from the iStimp, take the time to find out which device they used. While the iPad 2 generated readings most similar to the USGA stimpmeter, this seems the least convenient device to obtain stimpmeter readings with due to its size and expense. There are probably far more iPod’s and iPhone’s that find their way onto golf courses and each of these devices will overestimate stimpmeter readings.

Regardless of the iOS device used, stimpmeter readings obtained with the iStimp app on the iPad 2, iPod touch 4th Gen. and iPhone 4 are different compared to the USGA stimpmeter and comparisons are not valid.


Blog Use in the Turfgrass Industry

March 2, 2011

March is officially here which means that another growing season is fast approaching. iaTURF will already be entering its third year in operation! We will continue to bring you timely updates on interesting topics through the blog.

Blogging and the use of social media have really changed the way people communicate. In the academic world, one way we communicate with our peers is by writing papers, or manuscripts. To let people know about the success of blogging as a means to communicate with turfgrass professionals, iaTURF co-authored a paper with the Turf Disease Blog.

The Turf Disease Blog is one I like to follow. Content for this blog is provided by turfgrass pathologists across the U.S. If you’re not familiar with their blog you should definitely check it out.

A summary of our article is below. Click here to read the full article from the Journal of Extension.

Using Blogs to Disseminate Information in the Turfgrass Industry

Jones, Marcus A.; Kaminski, John E.; Christians, Nick E.; Hoffmann, Mark D.

The ability to provide regional information to turfgrass professionals in a timely format can help them avoid potential problems. While traditional, hard-copy based Extension materials can provide a wealth of information, the ability to communicate brief yet current updates can be invaluable. Two Web-based blogs were developed to provide information to turfgrass managers on a local (iaTURF) and international level (Turf Diseases). Data indicated that the blogs reached an average of 34.9 to 148.4 people per day. The use of blogs is an effective means to deliver timely information to a geographically diverse and large number of turfgrass managers.


What's the Web Saying About Turfgrass: 8-27-10 Edition

August 27, 2010

This week brought a break from the rain and we were treated to cooler temperatures. It's looks as though things will heat up again next week. Until then, here are some turf and golf related thinks.

iPhone at Work: Certified Golf Course Superintendent. How does a golf course superintendent use his iPhone to get the job done and what iPhone apps help get him through his day? Here’s one superintendents answer and as a small token of thanks we’re sending him a $20 iTunes gift certificate.

Golf's biggest problem-Women may be solution. The overwhelming problem facing the golf industry is finding new players while retaining those who already play. Money and time have been spent to find a fix. Just not often enough to generate a pattern of growth rather than decline. The Right Invitation makes the case for additional investment in order to attract and retain women customers and that these women are the source of growth for the golf industry.

The History of Golf Course Superintendents. This is a great video for anyone that loves Golf. As a matter of fact, it is great even if you don't like Golf, but would like to learn some things that didn’t know.

Hey golf gods, what did Dustin Johnson ever do? This letter of complaint is for the gods of golf: Which one of you has Dustin Johnson ticked off? You've shown this kid no mercy. What next, the rack?

Nuisance ants on golf courses. Mound-building nuisance ants have become one of the most troublesome pests in golf course maintenance. This article provides an update on our current USGA-funded research project concerning biology and pro-active management of turf ants on golf courses.

Enemy Number One to Black Cutworms. Superintendents can feel alone in their battles to protect golf courses from the ravages of insect invasion. They are not - Mother Nature is on their side. University of Kentucky entomologist, Dr. Dan Potter, and his talented group of graduate students, investigate how natural enemies of turf insects can help limit turf damage to golf courses. One such enemy is a type of virus that attacks black cutworms-and it works.


BASF launches free Turfgrass Disease App

November 11, 2010

BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals is pleased to introduce a free Web application that gives U.S. golf course Superintendents quick, expert advice on turfgrass disease control programs via their mobile phone browsers. To use the tool simply visit the blog or directly link to on a mobile device, such as the iPhone®, Android® and Blackberry®, or desktop browser.

The tool gives Superintendents immediate access to disease control program recommendations specific to Northeast, Midwest, Transition and Southern regions and turf types. In addition to helping Superintendents control known diseases, it also helps them predict diseases based on the time of year or, in the case of the Southern region, based on soil temperature. The tool then recommends fungicide applications, timing and rates from Kyle Miller and Kathie Kalmowitz, Ph.D., the BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals Technical Specialists who developed the disease programs.

“With a workspace averaging more than 140 acres, golf course Superintendents spend more time away from their desks than other professionals; yet their need for immediate, reliable information is just as pressing,” said Brian Lish, Business Manager, BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals. “This new tool gets our expertise to customers when and where they need it to help them succeed.”

To view the tool’s functionality, watch the video demonstration and visit for detailed information and helpful instructions on using and bookmarking the Web app from your mobile device or desktop.

For more information about BASF Turf & Ornamentals, visit or tweet us at


New Year, New Look, New Features

January 3, 2011

Those of you who regularly follow iaTURF don’t worry; you’re in the right spot. iaTURF has a new look along with some new features. We hope the upgrades will increase your experience each time you visit the site. But before we get into the new features let’s quickly review 2010.

A Look Back
2010 was a busy year for iaTURF. Over 100 articles were written on a variety of turf related subjects. I also managed to chronicle my encounter with a very tasty Cheesy Sacremento. In total we had over 18,000 visits to the blog last year. iaTURF continues to expand as over 40% of this traffic came from new visits. A big “Thank You” goes out to our readership for helping us put up these impressive numbers.

We also started a Facebook page for the blog back in June offering our readers with another convenient way to receive our posts. Content from iaTURF can be accessed by visiting the blog, signing up for an e-mail subscription, receiving feeds through a reader, or through Facebook. If you want to receive content through Facebook simply “Like” the iaTURF Facebook page and a short summary with a link to each post will appear in your news feed whenever we add a new article. We currently have 327 “Likes”. Please help us continue to expand our presence on Facebook and recommend iaTURF to your friends.

New Features for the New Year
As part of our efforts to increase the value of iaTURF to our readers we have incorporated image galleries on the blog. We currently have galleries for turf weeds, insects, and diseases. The galleries are located within the left hand column and can be accessed by clicking on the badge. All of our pictures are archived through a service called flickr and clicking on the gallery will take you to our iaTURF flickr page. There you can scroll through the pictures a number of different ways. Plus, all of the pictures in our galleries may be downloaded for you to use.

Again, thanks to all our readers for their support and for making 2010 such a successful year for iaTURF. If you have any ideas or suggestions regarding how iaTURF can improve its value to you, please don’t hesitate to let us know at


My Experience of 2010

December 31, 2010

Our final article of the year comes to us from Damian Richardson. Damian contributed a series of interesting articles this season about his "Overseas Adventure". Damian is now back in the States and working full time at The Club at Mediterra in Naples, Florida.

As many of the readers on iaTURF may know, I recently spent 6 months in Hong Kong working at the Hong Kong Golf Club. For my final article regarding my time in Hong Kong, I decided that I would share a few things I learned from my experience.

Before I set off for Hong Kong, I stopped in Marcus Jones’s office to learn how to set up a blog and discuss his philosophy on blogging. Marcus is a great blogger and I really learned a lot from him. Blogging was going to save me from having to write multiple e-mails to family and friends. I also wanted to write for the iaTURF blog because I figured that many Iowa (and other) superintendents may find some of my experiences interesting.

I found writing for the iaTURF blog challenging because it made me think about my job and identify topics that were interesting to others. Through this experience, I think that in the future I will be able to write articles that other turf managers, club members, or anybody interested in turf may find interesting and educational.

While in Hong Kong, and during my college career I tried to build a network of friends and business professionals in the turf industry. As the network has grown I have come to fully appreciate how important networking is and have begun to see how valuable it is to have a network.

In my personal blog called Damian Richardson’s Hong Kong Adventure, I wrote about many of the unique friends and colleagues I met while in South East Asia. I also discovered that I like meeting new people whether they are in my line of work or not. Meeting a new person with new and different interests can open one’s mind to a whole new world.

Applying Knowledge
I’ll have to admit that I am not the world’s greatest mathematician, more precisely and candidly: I stink at algebra. I remember suffering through high school algebra, banging my head on my desk, wondering why or how in the world I could ever use matrices. To this day, I still have no idea how I would use a matrix, but I found it very rewarding when I could finally begin to really use what I learned in school.

One of my favorite parts about my internships was being able to apply what I have learned in school and use it in ‘the real world.’ I even wrote about the excitement and satisfaction I got from being able to use math in my job.

Discovering myself
While in Hong Kong, I was really able to learn a lot about myself and who I was. Personal reflection is a very important tool that we all can use in various aspects in our life. As the year is coming to an end, we may want to reflect on the most recent golf season and think if there is any way that you could have made it better, or to identify maintenance changes that could be implemented in to next year’s program.

Personal reflection can also be a great tool for managers and leaders. Was there recently a situation at work that you wish you had handled better or didn’t turn out the way you thought it should? While searching for more information about personal reflections, I found this great article.

Goal setting and planning
I have never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but instead I like to set long term, short term and weekly goals. While in Hong Kong, I was able to really see how important it is to set goals. I believe that without goals and a form of measuring the success of reaching goals true success can never be reached.



August 10, 2011

The following is a post from Zach Simons. Zach is working on a masters degree through the master of Ag. program with a specialization in turfgrass science. He is working this summer with Dr. Van Cline at Toro in Minneapolis on a very interesting project that involves the mapping of soil conditions in turfgrass areas using remote sensing and GPS (global positioning system) technology. This is part of his creative component for his MS degree.

If you get Golf Course Management, you will find an article on this technology by Dr. Cline and Dr. Carrow of the University of Georgia in the August issue.

From Zach:
The increased emphasis on reducing water usage in the turf industry has increased the need for site-specific management. Toro has been developing a product called the Precision Sense 6000 (PS 6000) that can give site-specific soil information in turfgrass. The PS 6000 is a mobile sensing machine that measures soil moisture, soil salinity, soil compaction, and turf vigor. It is designed to be used on golf course fairways and athletic fields. A sensor that measures soil moisture, soil salinity, and soil hardness is attached to a rotating arm on the machine. A spectrometer measures the turf vigor by measuring reflected energy from the turf canopy at a wavelength in the red area in the visible spectrum and a wavelength in the near infrared portion of the spectrum.

The PS 6000 is pulled by a heavy-duty workman set to a speed of 1.9 miles per hour (mph). The machine moves at a speed of 1.9mph so samples are taken every 8 feet with a spacing of 8 to 12 feet between adjacent passes. Data on an average par 4 fairway can be collected in 45 minutes and it takes a day and a half to 2 days to collect data on an entire golf course.

A GPS system is used on the PS 6000 to give the specific site where data was collected. Once the data is collected and processed the results are displayed on Google Earth. Google Earth allows a person to zoom in on a specific hole on the course to analyze the data. Multiple layers can also be displayed on Google Earth so a person could compare the relationship from soil compaction to soil moisture.

Data collection with the PS 6000 should occur at a time when the golf course or athletic field is relying on the irrigation system to water the turf. This is so the data collected reflects the coverage of the irrigation system. When data is collected at that time, it can show areas on fairways that are getting over-watered or under-watered by the irrigation system. An irrigation audit can be performed with the data collected. The audit is performed by determining if the soil has the desired volumetric water content from irrigation. The audit can show many irrigation heads around the golf course that may have problems and the superintendent can make the proper adjustments.

The service that the PS6000 provides will be sold through Toro distributors once it is ready for commercial use. A distributor will have a machine and when a golf course buys the service the distributor will come to the golf course or athletic field and sample the turfgrass. When the PS6000 is ready for commercial Toro’s distributors in California and in the Carolina’s will offer the service first. Toro plans on expanding this service so that more distributors in the U.S. and worldwide will have machines and more customers will have access to the PS6000.

The pictures attached show the results of the data the PS 6000 collects. The first picture is soil moisture, the second picture is soil compaction, and the third picture is turf vigor.

Soil Moisture and Soil Compaction Data


The video attached is of a previous version of the PS 6000. The version of the PS 6000 that will be sent to distributors is equipped with a foamer so the user of the machine can see the previous passes