Golf Course Management

MAY 2018

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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60 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 05.18 "You are what you produce: Part 1" was published in the May 2014 issue of GCM. e setting for that column was Flint, Mich., where I led a team of Michigan State Univer - sity researchers in carrying out a field study. We mowed, applied fertilizer, and made her - bicide applications around abandoned homes and in neglected parks. My column described the direct results, including the numerous social benefits, of our turfgrass maintenance project in Flint (http://goo.gl/hAhY9b). A social benefit not measured or men - tioned in that article was the main topic of a scientific study published in 2017. Rich - ard Sadler, Ph.D., an urban geographer from MSU, looked at nine years of crime statistics in Flint, from 2005 through 2014. He com - pared crime statistics in neighborhoods where abandoned lots were neglected with those in neighborhoods where abandoned lots were regularly mowed and maintained. Although it is well documented that turf - grass decreases stress, depression and hope- lessness in urban settings, Sadler was the first to perform an in-depth space-time analysis concluding that maintained grass also leads to lower crime rates, including fewer assaults, burglaries and robberies. Regarding the ben - efits of maintained turfgrass, Sadler says, "It's people looking out for their own neighbor - hoods. If you know somebody's watching, you're not going to go out and vandalize some - thing. It's the overall change in perception cre- ated by cleaning up blighted property." Turfgrass is probably the most abundant and misunderstood plant. For the most part, it is taken for granted, and some people actually believe turfgrass is bad for the environment. Some negative perceptions about the pres - ence of turfgrass in lawns, parks or on golf courses include: • fertilizer can cause nutrient pollution; • turfgrass requires use of pesticides; • the plant uses too much water; and • two-cycle engines produce noise and air pollution. All the concerns listed above are legitimate if those who care for the turf are not educated in proper turfgrass maintenance. Given the opportunity, it is important that those of us who practice the art of turfgrass maintenance carry the torch for our plant to shed light on its many attributes. For instance, proper fer - tilization increases turfgrass density, which re- duces sediment runoff into surface bodies of water and increases soil microbial populations that filter water heading into our groundwater and drinking water. A study in Flint, Mich., showed that fertilizing a sloped lawn with 0.8 pound of nitrogen twice annually reduced sediment runoff by 50%. Furthermore, three identical fertilizer applications the follow - ing year resulted in 90% less sediment runoff compared with non-fertilized plots. Turfgrass water management research has led directly to the use of time-domain reflec - tometry (TDR) to make immediate on-site measurements of volumetric moisture con - tent. is easy-to-use technology minimizes water use by allowing experienced managers to irrigate within the confinements of plant- available water. TDR has been embraced by agriculture and is being simplified for home - owner use in gardens, flower beds and lawns. If you are what you produce, then turfgrass is not only a cosmetic enhancement, but also a plant that provides numerous social, economic and environmental benefits, plus the safest recreational playing surfaces. We should all be proud to work in an industry where our focus is on making the world a better, and, accord - ing to Sadler, safer place. Now, if we could only get everyone to appreciate what we do and compensate us for it. Key point: Educate, don't legislate. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D., the "Doctor of Green Speed," is the turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. You are what you produce: Part 2 Sadler was the first to perform an in-depth space-time analysis concluding that maintained grass also leads to lower crime rates, including fewer assaults, burglaries and robberies. Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. (up to speed)

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