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Iowa State Goes "Electric" from the Help of Jacobsen and Turfwerks

June 21, 2013

Every year at the GCSAA and STMA conferences, Jacobsen states how orange is everywhere. Well now orange is everywhere, including the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station. Late last month, Jacobsen and Turfwerks donated an Eclipse II 122 electric walking greens mower to the turfgrass research facility.

Eclips II 122 Electric Walking Greens Mower

The mower has been a great addition to the arsenal here at the farm. This is the first electric mower that the turfgrass research has owned or operated. Within a short month, students have been exposed to the newest technology in turfgrass maintenance. This model, along with many others, has an on-board computer that allows the operator to set the frequency of clip (FOC) within a couple of minutes. This feature has been very useful when changing the height of cut.

I would like to thank Jacobsen and Turfwerks for their very generous donation and their continued help and support to prepare students for the future.






Conference Season is Here!

December 13, 2010

This article comes to us from Ty McClellan, USGA Green Section Record Mid-Continent Region Agronomist.

Frost has arrived, evoking a collective sigh of relief from turf managers and cool-season turfgrasses alike. For most, cool weather (and even snowfall) has been but a dream since early July when Mother Nature began punishing cool-season turfgrasses throughout the Mid-Continent Region, and much of the country for that matter.

As a grueling year comes to a close, conference season moves into full swing and all indications are that meetings will be well attended. Recently, the Central Illinois GCSA enjoyed an audience larger than in recent years at their Annual Education Seminar. The demands brought forth by Mother Nature this summer didn’t allow superintendents much, if any, time away from the golf course. Poor attendance at golf course superintendent chapter meetings resulted, but this should change now with the opportunity to gather for education and camaraderie at a time of year when golf courses are on the mend.

Appropriately, many of the conferences this winter will feature education targeted towards summer survival strategies for cool-season turfgrasses. Given the recent environmental challenges, combined with persisting economic limitations, it would be well worth inviting a course official to attend a conference with you.

To learn more about conferences in your area, contact your local superintendent association or USGA Green Section office. Upcoming conferences for the upper Mid-Continent Region are as follows:

2011 Conferences

January 10-12
Nebraska Green Expo
Mid-America Center, Council Bluffs, IA

January 18-20
Iowa Turfgrass Conference & Trade Show
Polk County Convention Complex & Marriott Hotel, Des Moines, IA

February 7-11
GCSAA Education Conference & Golf Industry Show
USGA Green Section Education Program: “Lessons Learned Come in All Forms”—Feb. 11, 10:00 am - Noon
Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL
Visit and

February 22-23
Gateway Green Industry Conference & Trade Show
Gateway Convention Center, Collinsville, Illinois

If you would like more information about a Turf Advisory Service visit, contact either of the Mid-Continent regional offices: Ty McClellan at or (630) 340-5853 or Bud White at or (972) 662-1138.


Iowa Turfgrass Conference & Trade Show…WhooHoo!

January 22, 2010

The Iowa Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show was held at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott & Polk County Convention Complex January 19-21. I always enjoy conference season and the opportunity to network and listen to all the different presenters. One of the themes of this year’s show was environmental stewardship. Jim Sluiter, Audubon International staff ecologist, and Greg Lyman, GCSAA director of environmental programs, spoke about environmental stewardship and how to conduct an environmental assessment at your facility. Brett Hetland, CGCS, Brooks National Golf Club was presented with the first ever Iowa GCSA Environmental Stewardship Award. Congratulations Brett!

I had the opportunity to present about my interseeding research and about iaTURF and related electronic resources. I also tried my hand as a game show host during the pesticide applicator training (I better not quit my day job).

I was encouraged by the number of people who seemed excited about the possibility of contributing to iaTURF or even starting their own blog. In case you missed it, or want to see it again the presentation can be viewed below.

View more presentations from iaturfblog.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant


The Blogs First Year in Review

January 14, 2010

Back when the blog started on June 24, 2009 I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect. Our goal for the blog was to provide a convenient, quick way to provide relevant information and updates for golf course superintendents. It appears as though the blog is off to a fast start in 2010 and iaTURF even received some notoriety from the GCSAA (read the article here). With the start of a new calendar year still lingering I thought I would take the time to reflect on how the blog performed during its first 6 months.

• iaTURF had over 5,000 visits from across the globe. The majority of these visits (95%) came from the U.S.

• Within the U.S. the state of Iowa provided the most traffic (66%) with Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kansas rounding out the top 5.

• 69 articles were posted in 2009. The source of the articles came from a variety of sources including superintendents, industry professionals, and educators.

New Year’s Resolution
My new year’s resolution for the blog is to better these numbers during the next 6 months. I want to thank the industry for supporting iaTURF and everyone that has participated and follows the blog. I encourage you to participate by posting an article sometime during the season about what’s happening at your facility. Remember, the articles don’t have to be long and pictures are always welcome.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant


A Big Finish to a Big Week

February 15, 2010

Conference season is always a whirlwind of meetings, educational seminars, and trade shows as far as the eye can see. Last week I was in San Diego attending the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. I participated in the Golf Course Irrigation Auditor program which kept me busy the first two days of the conference. We performed an actual audit at a local golf course and learned how auditing can be a useful tool to fine tune an irrigation system for peak performance.

Wednesday night the Iowa/Nebraska GCSA reception was hosted at Zagarella, a great Italian restaurant in Little Italy. Jon Christenson (Superintendent, Monarch Bay Golf Club, Santa Clara, CA) was presented with the 2009 Iowa GCSA Distinguished Service Award.

Thursday morning brought the much anticipated event for the students who made the trip as they were preparing for the 2010 Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition. This year’s competition consisted of 67 teams from 31 colleges and universities. John Deere sponsored the competition and awarded cash prizes to teams who placed in the top 10. A team from Iowa State University which included Nick Dunlap (Iowa City, IA), Tyler Dykstra (Sibley, IA), Bryan Huinker, (Lakeville, MN), and Caleb Swanson (Nevada, IA) took first place and the $4,000 cash prize.



What a Difference a Day Makes

February 7, 2010

Some people say that experiencing winter makes you appreciate the summer months more. While Iowa is recieving yet more snow, I am in San Diego to attend the GCSAA Education Conference and the Golf Industry Show. The weather here is spectacular and it's hard not to have a smile on your face. While I am here, items on the agenda include participating in a Certified Golf Course Irrigation Auditor course and assisting a group of Iowa State students who will be participating in the Collegiate Turf Bowl.

ISU will be trying to recapture the title after finishing second to Purdue University last year. Updates will follow later in the week.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant


Checking your Irrigation System Performance through Auditing

October 28, 2010

If your area hasn’t already experienced a frost this fall, tonight will likely be the night. After a couple of days of cooler temperatures and gusty winds, low temperatures are supposed to dip into the mid 20’s throughout much of the state tonight. With November just around the corner, the fall season will soon give way to winter (I think some of us thought it would never get here). Many of you will probably be winterizing your irrigation systems within the next three weeks. I wrote an article last year about the process of winterizing your irrigation system. You can access that article by clicking here. The winterization process and the freeze thaw cycles typically experienced during an Iowa winter can affect the overall performance of your irrigation system. A relatively easy way to check the efficiency of your irrigation system is by performing an irrigation audit.

An irrigation audit can be conducted for any location on the golf course (greens, tees, fairways) that receives overhead irrigation. The audit process involves recording various site characteristics and then conducting a test to determine how uniform the irrigation system is applying water to the area being tested. Information such as the sprinkler type, arc adjustment, nozzle size, operating pressure, head spacing and soil type are examples of site characteristics that are typically recorded. The uniformity is determined by placing a series of catch cans in a grid pattern across the area to be tested and then running the irrigation system for a specified amount of time.

The pictures below are from an irrigation audit I recently conducted. In the first picture you can see the catch cans placed across the green in a grid pattern. The distance between the catch devices will depend on the size of the area you are testing. We used heavy duty cups as our catch device for this audit and they were placed on 15 foot centers. Any object can be used to collect the irrigation water as long as all the objects are the same and you can measure the size of the opening of each catch device.

The irrigation system is then run for a specified amount of time and water is collected in each catch device. The amount of time the system is operated depends on the type of irrigation heads. In this audit the heads were gear driven rotors and the system was run for 10 minutes. The amount of water collected in each catch can is recorded once the cycle is complete.

Below you can see the results from this audit. The values from each catch device are used to calculate the Distribution Uniformity of the area. The DU represents how uniformly water is applied to the area and is expressed as a decimal. A DU value of 1.0 would represent complete uniformity within the area tested. For rotary sprinklers, the Irrigation Association considers DU values of 0.8 Excellent (Achievable) and 0.7 Good (Expected). Values below 0.55 are considered Poor and action should be taken.


The calculated DU for this golf green was 0.63. The obvious question now becomes what can I do to improve the overall efficiency of the system? Performing regular maintenance activities such as leveling sprinkler heads, adjusting arcs for matched precipitation rates, checking and replacing clogged or worn nozzles and drive mechanisms are all practices that will help. The results of the audit may alter you to problems that require more significant repairs such as moving sprinkler heads to appropriate spacings, adjusting water pressure (up or down), or even upgrading various system components.

Increasing the DU of your irrigation system can save your facility a significant amount of money and water over the course of the season. Uniformly applied irrigation can also lead to improved and more uniform playing conditions. The Irrigation Association offers some great resources about the auditing procedure. There is also a one and a half day seminar at the GCSAA Education Conference that provides classroom and hand-on experience of the auditing golf courses if you are interested in learning more.


Meet the 2011 Turf Bowl Champions

February 17, 2011

Fresh off their big victory I was able to catch up with the 1st place team members and get their take on the entire experience.

Q: Tell me a little about each of you. Where are you from? What’s your background in turf?

A: Nick Dunlap – I’m from North Liberty, Iowa. I worked at Quail Creek Golf Course throughout high school and worked at Ames Golf and Country Club before starting as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Christians. Last summer I interned at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia and plan to return to Virginia to work at Kinloch Golf Club before starting graduate school in the fall.

A: Quincy Law – I’m from Clear Lake, Iowa and my first golf course experience was at All Vets Golf Club. I’ve also worked at Saratoga Country Club near San Jose, California and Coldwater Golf Links in Ames. Last summer I worked at the ISU Horticulture Research Station assisting with research and helping to maintain the grounds.

A: Zach Simons – I’m from Quincy, Illinois. I started in turf in August 2007 when I got a job at Westview Golf Course in Quincy and I worked there for a year and a half. The summer of 2009 I completed an internship at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Arcadia, Michigan and last summer I interned with the Iowa Clubs ground crew.

A: Jason Van Engen – I grew up in Primghar, Iowa. I started mowing lawns at the age of 11 and worked at Primghar Golf and Country Club throughout high school. I worked at Emerald Hills Golf and Country Club in Okoboji, Iowa my first summer in college. Last summer I interned at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minnesota and this summer I am headed to Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois.

Q: What made you want to compete in the contest?

A: Jason Van Engen – The history and tradition that Iowa State has in the Turf Bowl made me want to compete. Another source of inspiration came from watching the awards ceremony the previous year in San Diego. To see and hear the excitement of the winners as they were announced really inspired me. It was this inspiration that motivated me for a victory this year.

Q: What did you do to help prepare for the contest?

A: Zach Simons – I wrote and rewrote the scientific names of the grasses and worked quite a few math problems until I felt comfortable going into the test. I was also responsible for the weed section so I made a powerpoint presentation of weed pictures. I even studied weeds that I had never heard of but wanted to account for every weed listed on the study guide.

Q: The winning team receives a traveling trophy and is presented with an oversized check for $4,000. The trophy is mailed back to campus but how is it traveling home with the big check?

A: Nick Dunlap - I asked a representative from the GCSAA if they had any large envelopes so we could mail the oversized $4,000 check back home, but she informed me that they cost $4,000, so that was pretty much out of the question. Unable to mail the check home, we had to bring the check on the plane as a carry-on item. The reaction we got was not really surprising. What would you do if you saw someone walking through an airport with an oversized check? We experienced everything from odd looks and double takes to strangers clapping and flight attendants gloating saying that they wanted a big check too. Actually, I think I’m going to miss traveling with a large check.

Jason trying to navigate the big check through the isle.

Q: What does ISU's success in the Turf Bowl say about our Horticulture Department and the type of instruction you have received during your schooling?

A: Quincy Law – The Turf Bowl Competition is a national event and Iowa State’s success demonstrates the high quality education we receive. The test covers such a broad range of topics it’s very difficult to prepare for. Dr. Christians and Marcus Jones do a great job preparing us, along with the classes we take in agronomy, business, entomology, plant pathology, and other disciplines.

Q: Who was the first person you contacted after you found out you won the Turf Bowl?

A: Zach Simons – My mom actually texted me right after the awards ceremony asking me how I did in the Turf Bowl. She was the first person I told and from there the news spread and I kept on receiving texts congratulating me the rest of the night.

Thanks guys for your time and congratulations again on the Big W!


GIS Paints Optimistic Picture for 2011

February 15, 2011

Here’s an article that came across my e-mail yesterday regarding the most recent GIS and the “outlook” for the golf industry as we head into the 2011 season.

Attendees and exhibitors alike gave a big thumbs up to the 2011 Golf Industry Show, conducted Feb. 9-10 in Orlando, lending support to the growing wave of optimism that the golf industry is beginning to shake out of its doldrums.

"Coupled with what we saw at the PGA Merchandise Show in January, there is definitely a different feeling than what prevailed last year at this time," Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Chief Executive Officer Rhett Evans said. "From a qualitative and quantitative perspective, the Golf Industry Show was quite successful."

Total attendance for those utilizing the two registration portals – either GCSAA's or that of the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) – was 14,781. That represents a 4 percent increase over 2010 (NOTE: because the CMAA was not a partner in the Golf Industry Show this year, 2010 CMAA attendance figures were not included as a means for comparison). In terms of qualified buyers – those who are involved in the purchasing decision – attendance increased 11 percent for a total of 5,752 qualified buyers.

"The numbers reaffirm the value of the show," NGCOA Chief Executive Officer Mike Hughes said. "Coupled with the feedback from exhibitors, there is reason to be optimistic."

The Golf Industry Show attracted 551 exhibitors spread across 180,000 net square feet of exhibit space over the two-day event at Orange County Convention Center. That represents a 4 percent decline in exhibition space from last year in San Diego (comparing GCSAA and NGCOA exhibitors).

"The Golf Industry Show was of tremendous value. It was exceptional," Syngenta Marketing Manager Margaret Bell said. "The attendees were definitely in a buying mood and talking positively about 2011. We are already looking forward to the Golf Industry Show next year in Las Vegas."

To read the rest of the article, click here.


Biostimulant Use in the Turf Industry

May 16, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is a short summary of an essay submitted by Quincy Law to the GCSAA Student Essay Contest that received second place. The topic was selected based on an undergraduate research project completed by the author in 2010.

As environmental stewards, golf course superintendents need to produce the highest quality turf while retaining a healthy environment for both people and wildlife. Turf areas need to be maintained with environmental sensitivity while controlling pests and combating harsh environmental conditions. Despite increasingly stringent environmental regulations, water quality issues, and negative public perceptions of pesticides and fertilizers, golfers still expect their local course to appear and play as those on television: uniformly green and perfectly manicured.

Outside of chemical control and fertility, a superintendent has various options to maintain a high turf quality throughout the growing season. Mowing practices, species selection, water management, and cultivation can all improve plant vigor. Unfortunately, many of these options have already been implemented by the superintendent, cannot be changed, or are simply not feasible. There is, however, an alternative that has slowly been gaining popularity and is supported by research.

Biostimulants are materials that, in small quantities, stimulate plant growth. Although they can be synthetic chemicals, naturally occurring organic materials are excellent sources. Since the category includes a diversity of substances, biostimulants are defined by what they do more than by what they are. They stimulate growth, but they do much more too; stress tolerance is perhaps the most important benefit. Biostimulants can assist turfgrass in surviving dry, hot, high salinity, and even disease.

Products may contain one or more of a broad range of ingredients, including nutrients, organic acids, hormones, amino acids, vitamins, microbial inoculants, plant extracts, and others. They have limited nutritional value and promote plant growth by providing amino acids, chelating nutrients, and altering the hormonal status of a plant, which can exert large influences in plant growth and health.

Seaweed is the most widely used biostimulant in both agriculture and turfgrass management. Humic substances are another common component of biostimulant products. Both seaweed and humic acid have been shown to effectively stimulate plant growth and increase stress tolerance. In addition, these materials also complement each other when used in combination.

Seaweed and humic acid may affect the plant in several ways because they contain various hormones, vitamins, amino acids, plant nutrients, and other components. The stimulating influences, especially for turfgrasses growing under environmental stress, have mainly been attributed to hormonal activity. Humic acid and seaweed extract both exhibit cytokinin and auxin activity, which are two classes of plant hormones. When the plant is exposed to certain environmental and cultural stresses, levels of some hormones, such as cytokinins, may drop. Under these conditions, applications of cytokinins or other plant hormones could help ameliorate the stress.

Biostimulant applications may only be beneficial where root growth, moisture stress, salinity, or other issues are present. Turfgrass typically grows well without biostimulants when the environment is favorable; plants growing under minimal stress may perform similarly regardless of biostimulants. In these situations, the positive effects of biostimulants may not be easy to identify. When the plants become stressed, however, biostimulant-treated turfgrasses perform better because they have developed a better defense system. For the maximum effectiveness, biostimulants should be applied prior to the onset of stress. Treatments may be most effective when applied early in the season when the plant is actively growing.

Golfers, greens committees, and the general public hold golf course superintendents to a double standard. Golf courses are expected to be maintained at a high quality, such as those played on the PGA Tour. However, that high level of maintenance exposes turfgrass to a significant amount of stress. In addition, the fertilizers, pesticides, water, and other controls used to combat these stresses often carry a negative stigma.

In order to keep turf plants healthy in the presence of stress with limited use of fertilizer and chemicals, biostimulants may be a viable option for superintendents. Not only can biostimulants reduce the usage of chemicals harmful to the environment, most are natural and are composed of chemicals not available in synthetic products. Turf managers may be able to “go green” while still maintaining healthy turf, and they may prove to be an environmentally friendly component to turfgrass management.