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Do-It-Yourself Research: Simple, Effective DIY Tips to Improve Your Course

July 13, 2010

I often write about some of the various research projects that I have going on for the blog. While research is a big part of what we do at the University some of the best research is done by the end users, golf course superintendents themselves. On-course research is a great way to test new products or re-evaluate existing ones.

Editor’s note: The remainder of this article was submitted by Todd Burkdoll, BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals Technical Specialist.

Every product used to manage a golf course is tested extensively before it ever gets to the maintenance building. But experienced superintendents know that products researched in other locations with different conditions may perform slightly differently on their course. To more completely understand a product’s performance on your course, do as the university experts do. Research it.

Do It Yourself (DIY) turf management research doesn’t need to be costly or complicated. Simple, scaled-down yet strategic techniques can assure you that you’re using the best tools to meet your course’s unique needs.

Common Research
Just about any golf course management technique or tool can be researched. Here is a short list of typical research subjects:

• Turf varieties – What grows best on your fairways, colonial bentgrass, creeping bentgrass or perennial ryegrass? Which variety of Kentucky bluegrass should you use in your roughs? Testing grass varieties side-by-side will help you learn what the top performers are on your course.

• Herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and plant growth regulators – Research can compare different products or one product with varying timing, rates or growing conditions.

• Fertilizers – What kind, when, where and how much?

• Cultural practices and equipment – Testing some of the many methods of aeration, top dressing, mowing, rolling and de-thatching should show you what works best for your course.

Data Collection Basics
Similar to turf test plots at universities, you should visibly mark trial areas. Extensive mowing schedules make it nearly impossible to come back to your on-course research area two or three days later and know where you applied a fungicide or tried a different setting on an aerator. Identifying plots with marking paint and routinely re-marking them so they can easily be found is crucial. It’s also important to keep a written map of all trials.

Another recommendation is to replicate research. Say for instance you want to evaluate Insignia® fungicide for summer patch control on fairway turf. Replicating the application two or three times allows you to evaluate the average of the results for a more accurate view of performance.

Always follow label instructions and use products during the same time period you would normally do so, especially for chemical products. The goal of DIY research is to learn how products work under your real-world conditions.

There are several things to consider when choosing where on your course to conduct research. First and foremost, consider what you’re studying and what the worst-case scenario might be. It may not be smart to test a new herbicide on a highly visible area of your course. Would you want to risk discoloring the Hole 18 fairway?

Choose areas representative of your course as a whole in order to fairly evaluate products. When testing fungicides or herbicides, it’s better to avoid areas with high or low disease or weed pressure. Utilizing an area that’s typical of your course will make positive results easier to replicate on a larger scale when you start using a product in earnest. Similarly, avoid areas that are topographically unique. If only one portion of your course is hilly, for example, you probably don’t want to do your testing there.

Research Partners
Don’t let the term “do-it-yourself” limit you. DIY research doesn’t have to be done without help. You have limited time and resources, and seemingly unlimited responsibilities so consider working with others – be it university researchers, manufacturing representatives or nearby superintendents. Partnering with others is a great way to continue learning and improve management techniques without being overwhelmed.

Working with university researchers can be particularly beneficial. Collaboration provides another set of trained eyes that can monitor results, provide recommendations and give insights into the latest turf management trends. It also gives university researchers a real-world venue to conduct studies. All the while it improves your course for golfers. Everybody wins.

Other Tips
• Conduct research on small plots. You don’t want to tie up a lot of the course with research plots.

• Communicate results. Post informal research results on your Web site or in your newsletter so members are aware of your efforts to improve the course.

• Beg, borrow and steal research ideas from nearby courses. Introduce yourself to other superintendents in your region and pick their brains about what they’re doing on their course. Chances are they’re doing something you should try.

• Invest in – and use – a decent digital camera. Before-and-after and side-by-side photos come in handy when evaluating research results. It’s also a great way to show off your work to your board of directors or Greens Committee.

Keep Improving
DIY research is an excellent way to make your course the best it can be without breaking the bank. It’s an efficient way to test new products, equipment and techniques so you know exactly what to expect when you incorporate them full-scale into your course management plan.


Help Support Research and Scholarship!

August 20, 2010

The ITI, in concert with the Iowa Golf Course Superintendent Association, holds the annual ITI/Iowa GCSA Benefit Golf tournament to secure funding for Research and Scholarship.

The ITI/Iowa GCSA Benefit has a long tradition of support from Sponsors and Players. Thanks to all who continue to contribute to making this the best of events that support Turfgrass Research & Education.

ITI/Iowa GCSA Benefit Golf Tournament
August 30, 2010

Des Moines Golf & Country Club
Host Superintendent: Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS
11 AM Buffet lunch - Noon Shotgun Start
2 Person selective drive/ alternate shot
$100 per player

Click here to download the team registration form.


Dollar Spot Disease 2010, Tim Sibicky, CDGA Turfgrass Research Manager

September 30, 2010

Warmer temperatures this week have provided suitable environmental conditions for dollar spot (Sclerotinia homoeoecarpa) development on fairways. We are now beginning to see a late season surge in damage as we enter the autumn months. Thinking back to the beginning of the 2010 season, we set out to investigate the effectiveness of early season dollar spot programs and if you look (Figure 1) we are able to see the progression of the disease at a variety of different locations surrounding Chicago. So I ask, was it worth it to spray early in April-May? At our locations for this year’s Biorational study, ranging from North Shore Country Club in Glenview, IL Coyote Run Golf Course in Flossmor, IL and Briar Ridge CC in northwest Indiana, it is evident that the disease failed to take off until the middle of summer.

As an additional note: each of our locations vary in turfgrass composition with Coyote Run having a blend of Southshore and L93, Briar Ridge CC with Penncross and North Shore CC having a mix of creeping bentgrass and Poa annua. We tested seven treatments, Rhapsody 10 fl oz, Ecoguard 20 fl oz, Dew Cure 4.0 fl oz, Urea 0.15 lbs, Daconil 3.2 oz, Daconil 3.2 oz curative (as needed using 5% damage threshold).

Treatments are being applied at 14 day intervals at label rates and the plots at all locations are scouted weekly. If disease infection centers exceed an average of 5% area affected a curative application of 3.2 oz of Daconil is applied over the biorational treatment. We are able to understand the effectiveness of the different treatments by comparing visual quality, percentage of disease, and number of curative fungicide applications. Our goal is to reduce fungicide use and maintain turfgrass quality at levels required for fairways.

Results (Table 1). At Coyote Run GC, we have been able to maintain the Dew Cure treatment below the 5% threshold without applying a single curative application of Daconil! At this location we were also able to see a recuperative effect within the Urea treatment, only requiring a single application. At North Shore Country Club we were able to reduce the curative applications by two when using DewCure. All other plots required the same amount of curatives, four apps. At Briar Ridge with DewCure, we were able to reduce the number of curative required by one. At Briar Ridge we did observe phytotoxicity by DewCure. On August 10 an application of all products were made at a time when temperatures were 90+ degrees and turf was entering drought stress. This resulted in severe injury by DewCure alone.

These biorational products may play more important roles in disease management programs as we continue to progress into a reduced input future. As we continue to learn and understand the benefits and limitations, superintendents will be able to make better and more informed decisions. We may as well investigate alternatives now before we run out of options.

The final picture shows a plot treated with Dew Cure resisting dollar spot without receiving any curative applications during the summer of 2010 at Coyote Run GC.

Tim Sibicky
Chicago District Golf Association
11855 Archer Avenue
Lemont, IL 60439


Help NTEP with a new Kentucky Bluegrass Trial

December 6, 2010

The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) is a non-profit organization that conducts research on the major turfgrass species. NTEP cooperates with state Universities across the U.S. to establish and maintain these trials. A number of testing sites are utilized in order to provide turfgrass managers with data specific to their region or state. We have a couple of NTEP trials at the Iowa State Turfgrass Research Station and if you have ever attended a Turfgrass Field Day you are sure to have seen NTEP research during your visit.

Many of you have probably heard of NTEP before and possibly even used their data. The NTEP trials record information such as turfgrass quality, color, density, resistance to diseases and insects, tolerance to heat, cold, drought, and traffic. I remember John Newton and myself using NTEP data to select cultivars of creeping bentgrass during the renovation process at Veenker Memorial Golf Course. We were interested in choosing cultivars that had dark green color and had good resistance to dollar spot.

Currently, NTEP is planning to initiate a new Kentucky bluegrass trial during the fall of 2011. They are seeking input from industry professionals on the direction of the study. Specifically, they are looking for input on the types of evaluations they should conduct, and the traits that you desire in Kentucky bluegrass cultivars.

You can provide your opinions for this new trial by conducting a short survey (only 8 questions) on the NTEP website. A direct link to the survey can be accessed by clicking here.


Why Research is Conducted Across Multiple Years

September 8, 2010

Starting a new research project is always exciting. It signifies the beginning of a journey to hopefully answer a specific set of questions. Often times, there are surprises along the way (some good, some bad) that you weren’t expecting. However, one of the frustrating aspects of research is that it is slow, and takes time.

It’s common for field experiments to last the duration of a growing season only to be repeated a second or third time in consecutive years. This can be annoying and confusing to the end users, the people who are awaiting the results of the project. So why is it that research projects are conducted across multiple years? Simply put, because of the environment.

Just think about the variation in the weather from last year to this year. Last year we experienced record low temperatures and moderate rainfall. This year we were treated to above average temperatures and record rainfalls. The difference in temperatures, coupled with the extremes in rainfall between the two growing seasons results in major inconsistencies in the growth and overall quality of our turfgrasses from year to year.

I’m seeing the influence of the environment in my interseeding study at Hyperion Field Club. The picture below shows two plots each receiving the same treatments or management strategy. The plot on the left is from 2009 and the plot on the right is from 2010. These particular plots each received 4 applications of Velocity herbicide on 14 day intervals at 2 oz/A starting the beginning of June and ending the middle of July. Each individual plot is split in half and received two different seeding strategies. The left side of each plot received multiple sowings of seed at 1.5 lbs/1000 ft2 every 14 days for a total of 13.5 lb/1000 ft2/year. The right side of each plot received two sowings of seed at the same rates for a total of 3 lb/1000 ft2/year.

Research plots from Hyperion field club in 2009 (left) and 2010 (right).  Each plot received 4 applications of Velocity. Why such a disparity in appearance?  The environment.  

The plot from 2009 shows good color, no loss in turf density, and seedlings can be seen emerging on the left side of the plot. In contrast, the plot from 2010 appears slightly chlorotic and turf density has been severely compromised. Furthermore, germination of seedlings is scarce. Clearly, the weather was a huge factor in the response of these plots to the Velocity applications. To be fair, I do need to point out that the Velocity label warns of possible damage to creeping bentgrass under high heat stress during and directly following application which was experienced in 2010.

If you’ll remember from an earlier post, one of the surprises from this research was the high level of poa control we experienced from the Velocity applications. Based on the damage we saw from the summer applications during 2010 we have set up another trial to see if we can achieve good poa control with fall applications of Velocity. The idea is that applications during the fall will result in less damage to the creeping bentgrass. This trial has three treatments, 1) some plots will receive a September 1 application, 2) some plots will receive an October 1 application, and 3) some plots will receive an application on September 1 and October 1. All applications will be made at 2 oz/A.

We’ll be sure to let you know how it goes…next spring.

Velocity research plot (left) and untreated plot (right) at Hyperion Field Club.  The plots receiving Velocity had considerably less poa compared to untreated plots


Side project to determine if fall applications are effective at controlling poa.

Construction Of Sports Turf Research Area At Iowa State

June 15, 2015

Here is a blog from Dan Strey, research associate at the turf research site.  It is about the new construction that he is doing at the Hort Research Station.  This will be part of the turf field day on July 23, 2015.

ISU Expanding Sports Turf Research
June 15, 2015
Dan Strey

Just over a couple of weeks ago, we began construction of a new three acre site that will be used for future sports turf research. The area will be divided into three different plots. The first being a native soil field. Topsoil from the existing site was stripped and stockpiled prior to reshaping. Once the clay subgrade was moved and leveled, ten to twelve inches of topsoil was then placed on top. The second plot will evaluate sand topdressing over existing native soil fields. The construction process will be similar to that of the native soil field. Once the area is seeded, topdressing will begin to take place. Lastly, the third plot will have a four inch sand cap. The subgrade will contain a minimum of four inches below the sand cap. The three plots were designed to represent the major types of fields being used and constructed in the state of Iowa as well as the Midwest.

The rough grade is nearing completion. We spent the last two weeks moving over 6,000 cubic yards of soil. We expect to begin the irrigation work within the next week or two. The system includes 72 heads, 24 electric valves, 8 isolation valves, 12 quick couplers, 3 miles of wire and 1.25 miles of pipe. Once complete, we will move on to the drainage system.

Last week the Iowa State News Service published a press release regarding the construction project. They included a video from the site. The link to the release is

 The Ames Tribune also ran a story on this last week, here is the link

Planning for the project started last fall where we identified the location, plans were constructed, and  sought out donations to help fund the project. We had an overwhelming response from the turf, irrigation, and construction industries. By early spring, the project was 100% funded. Here is a list of our sponsors and donors.


Hunter Industries

Cresline Pipe

Nibco Valves

Regency Wire

John Deere Landscapes

Rainbird Irrigation

Ziegler Caterpillar

Trimble GPS

Iowa Turfgrass Institute

Iowa Sports Turf Managers Assoc.

United Seeds

Bush Sports Turf

Lasco Fittings, Inc.

Harco Fittings

MTI Distributing

ISU Department of Horticulture


Thank you to everyone who has helped make this project happen!

Dan Strey


 Here are some pictures from the construction process.  As of June 15, the subgrade has been completed and the top soil placed. 



Dr. Shui-zhang Fei

Associate Professor
Area of Expertise: 
physiology, genetics, growth and development

Dr. Nick Christians

Nick Christians Photo
Area of Expertise: 
turfgrass education, fertility, natural herbicides

Update On Sports Turf Research Area Construction

August 12, 2015

The construction of the new sports turf research area at the Iowa State Turfgrass Research Facility is going surprisingly well in spite of a very wet summer (See June 15 blog  The area has very good surface drainage and pretty good subsurface drainage.  Dan and Zach finished the irrigation system late last week and are in the process of settling the trenches and placing the sand on the sand-capped area..  On Friday of this week, Derek York of Bush sports turf will arrive to do the final grade.  Seeding will take place this weekend if the weather cooperates.  Stay tuned for further updates as the area is grown in.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this effort.


GoPro Video of New Sports Turf Construction at Research Station

July 10, 2015

On June 15, Dan Strey put up a blog on the new sports turf area being constructed this summer at the turfgrass research area here at Iowa State University.  Dan and undergraduate research associate, Zac Olinger, have been making a GoPro video of the process.  They downloaded the first video this morning.

Approximately one half of the irrigation system has currently been installed.  Final grading will take place in
August and seeding will take place by early September. 

Here is the video: