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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.






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




Improving Accuracy of Disease Rating for Dollar Spot on Turf

September 24, 2010

Nick Christians
September 24, 2010

Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts from students who are working on research projects and internships. This one is from Steve Johnson, a student who worked for Mark Gleason this summer on a Dollar Spot study. This is part of the requirement for his Hort. 391, turf internship, class.



Golf Course Superintendent

November 4, 2009

Golf Course Superintendent – Meadows Country Club

Duties –

Responsible for Golf Course, Clubhouse Lawns, Trees and Flowers, Golf Course Budget, Cart Fleet and Clubhouse Building Maintenance, Purchasing

Qualifications –

2 Year formal Education preferred, Iowa Certified Pesticide Applicator or ability to obtain.

Experience –

Minimum 2 years golf course maintenance experience

Benefits –

State Association Dues, Monthly meeting expenses

Salary Range –

$28,000 -$35,000

Application Deadline –

December 1, 2009

Position Available –

January 15, 2010

Contact Info –

Mark Harris - Board President

Box 299

Moville Ia. 51039


Email –


Food for Thought this Fall

November 2, 2009

USGA Green Section Mid-Continent Region

Food for Thought this Fall

By Ty McClellan, Agronomist

Updated October 19, 2009

The weather in 2009 for the upper Mid-Continent Region will be recorded as one of the coldest and remembered as one of the oddest. Other than a 12-day stretch of intense heat during mid-June, temperatures were well below normal. In fact, only a handful of days reached 90°F in the Chicago area and very few areas in the upper Mid-Continent Region hit 100°F. When elevated temperatures did develop, they were short-lived and/or quickly offset by cool nighttime temperatures. Rainfall was plentiful and often timely. All told, environmental conditions mimicked those of the Pacific Northwest rather than the Midwest.

Given these non-typical summer conditions, cool-season turfgrasses experienced much less stress while the warm-season turfgrasses lacked vigor, as their growth was slowed much of the year by cooler temperatures and frequent rainfall. For all turfgrasses, disease development was rather minor when compared to more typical summers. By all appearances, this was a relatively easy summer for turfgrasses and their managers; however, there were a number of shortfalls observed this year. Before falling victim to a false sense of security, areas needing special attention as we transition into fall are detailed below:

• Completion of Earlier Projects - One of the wettest springs on record for the upper Mid-Continent Region did not favor those in the midst of course projects earlier this year. Whether work was performed in-house or contracted out, projects were delayed, if not abandoned, as even two consecutive days of favorable weather proved elusive. On the other hand, growing conditions were quite favorable for cool-season turfgrass (especially in the rough) all year-long and, with frequent rainfall, additional labor was needed to keep up with mowing. This limited the availability of labor for course projects. More often than not, spring projects either did not get finished or they persisted into the primary golfing season, inconveniencing golfers and interfering with routine daily course maintenance.

Looking forward, projects that went uncompleted (particularly if critical) will need to be readdressed. To do so with the typical number of full-time employees may result in other delays, as the unfinished projects take precedence over those originally planned for this winter. In other words, without additional winter staff to get the schedule back on track, projects previously planned for this season may need to be postponed until the projects from last season are completed.

• Adequate Budgeting for Fungicides - Mild temperatures correlated to an overall reduction in disease outbreaks in 2009 and the amount spent on fungicides followed suit. Superintendents generally reported anywhere between a 15% and 35% reduction in fungicide use this year when compared to previous years. While courses can count themselves lucky this year (and maybe even last year), this year’s fungicide expense should not be used when establishing next year’s budget, since it was not a true indication of typical disease pressure or the subsequent budget needed for control. It will be important to keep in mind typical use and needs.

• Irrigation - Cool temperatures and timely rains for most of the golfing season meant much less irrigation than normal. In fact, many superintendents in the Chicago area reported using their irrigation systems less than five times during the entire year for the purposes of replenishing soil moisture to appropriate levels. Rather, most used irrigation to simply water in chemical applications or lightly syringe ‘hot’ spots. As such, this year was very kind to those with inadequate or poor irrigation systems, who pay for water, or who have poor quality irrigation water. Unfortunately, this has caused some to lose sight of the need to improve the irrigation system, accurately budget for future water use, or support additional practices to manage problems associated with poor water quality, such as increased aeration, flushing and applications of gypsum, lime, calcium, etc.

• Organic Matter Accumulation on Putting Greens - Organic matter in putting green root zones increased this year, even for those with well-designed sand topdressing and aeration programs. Soil temperatures simply remained too cool for much of the year and putting green root zones were oftentimes waterlogged given regular, if not record-setting rainfall. Basically, cool soil temperatures caused soil microbial activity to slow and thus, limited its ability to decompose organic matter. A wet spring also meant the soils remained very saturated, thus limiting oxygen levels in the root zone that slowed oxidation, i.e. natural aerobic decomposition, of organic matter. To further complicate matters, routine topdressing applications throughout the growing season were difficult to administer given frequent inclement weather, so less sand was applied less often. To account for the increase in organic matter accumulation, an even greater emphasis should be placed this fall and next spring on core aeration and incorporating more sand into putting green root zones.

• Poa annua Control – Given that this summer was more like that of the Pacific Northwest, overcast skies combined with cooler temperatures and frequent rains that created environmental conditions very favorable for Poa annua. As such, decreasing Poa annua populations found in creeping bentgrass putting greens and fairways was very difficult this year. A lack of mid-summer heat meant that the Poa annua did not decline, and selective herbicides, such as Velocity, or plant growth regulators with some known levels of Poa annua suppression, such as paclobutrazol (Trimmit) or flurprimidol (Cutless), were not as effective. Looking forward, greater success should be anticipated in the future with a return to more typical summer weather.

If you would like more information about a Turf Advisory Service visit, do not hesitate to contact either of the Mid-Continent regional offices: Ty McClellan at or (630) 340-5853 or Bud White at or (972) 662-1138.


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.


2012 Iowa Turfgrass Conference & Tradeshow Recap

January 31, 2012

The 78th Iowa Turfgrass Conference and Tradeshow was held January 17-19 at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott Hotel. This annual event is solely dedicated to the turfgrass industry and brings together educators, industry partners, and professional turfgrass managers. In total, attendees were able to network with over 50 vendors and participate in countless educational seminars while networking with colleagues and catching up with friends.

This event continues to be a success and provide attendees with tips or techniques they can take back to their facility to improve their operation. Below are pictures from the 3 day event. Enjoy!

Marcus Jones
Assistant Scientist
Iowa State University


Out of the Oven and Into the Fire

August 11, 2011

This article comes to us from Ty McClellan, USGA Green Section Record Mid-Continent Region Agronomist. Ty provides his thoughts about the hot temperatures most have experienced this summer and the toll is has taken on cool-season grasses.

Although the summer of 2010 was one of the hottest on record and widely publicized for the wake of destruction in the turf industry, it looks as though we’ve jumped out of the oven and right into the fire in 2011. Popular phrases that include ‘the perfect storm’, ‘equal opportunity destroyer’, and ‘turf loss of epic proportions’ are being bantered about once again, as Mother Nature turns up the heat and tries to roast the cool-season turfgrasses found on many golf courses beyond well done.

Managing turf during June and July in the upper Mid-Continent Region has been anything but easy, given the persistent heat wave. For much of Kansas and Missouri, nearly every other day during the past nine weeks has exceeded 100°F, and nighttime lows have rarely dropped below 80°F. Even though it is hard to imagine, 2011 may surpass 2010 for record heat. Some superintendents are already stretched, as this summer has dealt them an even worse set of circumstances. August conditions may leave some to wonder how they will have any turf to manage as putting green soil temperatures may continue to exceed 90 degrees.

Somewhat surprisingly, education and communication efforts that were effective last year are not providing the same understanding ears this year. Course officials and golfers seem to be less receptive to the news about heat stress. This is a good time to revisit some fundamental principles of turf management:

Creeping bentgrass root dieback begins when soil temperatures exceed 86°F at a 2-inch depth.

Poa annua is a fragile species that is usually the first to decline during high temperatures.

Portions of putting greens that suffer from poor air movement, poor drainage, and concentrated traffic (particularly the collars) are the most difficult to maintain and the first to decline.

To survive the heat and maintain turf health until the fire is extinguished with the onset of cooler temperatures, some of the most effective strategies include:

Supplement automatic irrigation as much as possible with hand watering.

Raise the mowing height and use solid front rollers when preparing the greens for play.

Mow less frequently and roll instead.

Use large oscillating fans to improve air circulation and assist the transpirational cooling of the turf. The fans may be needed continuously for 24 hours of the day.

Vent the greens when possible via non-disruptive aeration techniques.

Increase the rate and frequency of fungicide applications, as disease pressure increases with higher temperatures.

Reduce traffic on the putting greens via temporary closure, if necessary, or cancelling / rescheduling large outings.

Cool-season turfgrasses are in a fragile state, and superintendents and their staffs are feeling the effects of long hours and touch-and-go conditions. Now is the time to support them as they work to maintain the turf. Expectations for exceptional playability simply must be put on hold until temperatures cool off…and hopefully that is soon.

If you would like more information about a Turf Advisory Service visit, do not hesitate to contact either of the Mid-Continent regional offices: Ty McClellan at or (630) 340-5853 or Bud White at or (972) 662-1138.


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.


Spring Fever in February

February 21, 2011

Ty McClellan, USGA Green Section Record Mid-Continent Region Agronomist, weighs in with his thoughts on the warm winter weather.

Only a week ago a whopping 49 of the 50 U.S. states had snow cover. This was the after-effects of one of the worst winter storms on record that hammered much of the country with ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures. In the upper Mid-Continent region, some were buried beneath nearly 28 inches of snow.

Fast forward to last week, and temperatures climbed into the 50’s and 60’s. In fact, a few parts of the region have experienced record daily temperature highs for February. It’s hard to imagine it, but areas in the Great Plains that saw temperatures dip to -35°F two weeks ago, reached close to 65°F last week. That’s a 100-degree turnaround in a week!

Keep in mind that it is times like these where golf courses are most vulnerable to traffic damage. Even when air temperatures rise to a comfortable level to play golf, soils may thaw near the surface but will remain frozen several inches below. Subsurface drainage is impeded, which causes water to dam at the surface. Soft and wet soils are extremely prone to compaction damage from any sort of traffic, and rutting is possible with heavy-tire traffic. Either will require significantly more aeration in the spring and summer to correct the damage that has been done, and spring green-up will be slowed considerably. Play should never be allowed during such conditions!

It is likely that much of the snow and ice covering putting greens has melted. For superintendents, it is important that water can freely exit the green so that it does not puddle and refreeze on the surface. It takes just a few freeze-thaw cycles and there is sure to be winter injury by way of crown hydration injury. The common question of whether to remove snow and ice from greens, or not, is never easily answered and it depends on many variables, including site conditions and weather forecasts. Regardless of the decisions made, there is sure to be some degree of second-guessing involved. Even the best laid plans may fail. To a large extent, winter injury remains one of the unsolved mysteries in our industry.

For golf enthusiasts and anyone experiencing the winter blues, the recent warm-up is only temporary. Another winter storm is expected in a few days. In fact, winter is still some six weeks or so from being over. So, continue utilizing all-season driving ranges to keep your swing sharp and rely on your superintendent and knowledgeable course officials for the green light as to when it is safe to tee it up for real.

If you would like more information about a Turf Advisory Service visit, do not hesitate to contact either of the Mid-Continent regional offices: Ty McClellan at or (630) 340-5853 or Bud White at or (972) 662-1138.