Tennessee Turfgrass - October / November 2022

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The Official Publication of the Tennessee Turfgrass Association, the Tennessee Valley Sports Field Management Association and the Tennessee Golf Course Superintendents Association
Tur fgrasses for the 21st Centur y Our goal is to produce the highest quality, innovative turfgrass on the market today while providing the best customer service. Our affiliation with several research and development professionals gives us access to some of the best varieties of turf available for difficult applications. We are also a grower of Tennessee Crop Improvement Association Certified Turfgrass. www.WinsteadTurfFarms.com 901.867.8116 • 1.800.624.TURF (8873) 22860 Highway 196 • Arlington, TN 38002
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4 The Official Publication of the Tennessee Turfgrass Association, Tennessee Valley Sports Field Managers Association and the Tennessee Golf Course Superintendents Association OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 TABLE OF CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS From the TTA President 6 From the TVSFMA President 8 Calendar of Events 11 Index of Advertisers 38 TN Turf Twitter Updates 40 The Turfgrass Team at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville 41 20 36 6 Find this issue, Podcasts, Events and More: THETURFZONE.COM TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Cultivating Employee Development42 NC State University Releases Sola,™ the Newest St. Augustinegrass36 FEATURES TPI International Education Conference10 Save the Date for the TTA Annual Conference & Trade Show12 UPCOMING EVENTS Where Will the Turfgrass Industry Be in Ten Years? Equipment and Technology Advancements20 COVER STORY


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you work in the green industry for long enough, you be come an expert at crisis management. While none of us go looking for a crisis, we routinely find them.

Working alongside Mother Nature, we are constantly reminded that we are seldom in control of the situation. We prepare the best we can, but Mother Nature ultimately wins. We are, in fact in the solutions business and are conditioned to do whatever it takes to sur vive. You must have the “refuse to fail” mindset, which will be tested.

We all manage perishable goods and fight Mother Nature to some degree each and every day. We routinely must deal with severe weather and are experts in our preparation and response. This constant battle against factors outside of our control makes us excellent crisis managers.

I have been in the business for over 30 years now and have lived through my share of crisis at work. I have managed a micro-burst with sustained winds of over 100 mph; an electrical storm where anything that was connected to a wire was zapped; direct hits by Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne; extreme heat and cold; blizzards, ice storms and hailstorms. This list could go on and on, not to mention the COVID-19 Pandemic that never seems to end.

Recently, we added another crisis to this list when the club house at our Tanasi Golf Club burned to the ground on Saturday, August 27th at around 4:30 p.m. Most importantly, everyone got out safely, so praise God for the fact that no one was hurt. I was out of town at the time, but immediately went into crisis manage ment mode. The flames were likely still burning, but I immediately started working on the problem. How are we going to operate and how quickly can we reopen?

The carts were stored in the basement of the clubhouse, so I assumed they were all lost. I started working the phones to secure a loaner fleet of carts, because without them we would not be able to operate. A couple of hours later I found out that the carts were saved due to how the cart basement was constructed and the ef forts of the first responders. We just needed to go through them to assess the damage and figure out how quickly we could get them back in operation. We spent the day on Sunday, August 28th in specting and cleaning the carts and were shocked to find out that most all of them were fully operational with only a handful that had a significant cosmetic damage. Thankfully, the chargers were saved as well, but where were we going to store and charge them? Our staff spent the day cleaning and charging the fleet so that part of the operation would be ready.

We also have a separate turn shack building that with the help of our IT Department we have turned into a makeshift Golf Shop. It has three windows; the first window is the snack bar, the second is for golfer check-in and the third is for our starter-ranger

and golf cart operations. One of our staffers nicknamed it the Swiss army knife of buildings as we are constantly working to make it better. This temporary setup, along with our carts being saved, enabled us to reopen on Monday, August 29th. This is all due to an incredible effort by an incredible team.

The Green and Golf Industries never cease to amaze me as the outpouring of support has been incredible. We are all truly in this together and we are for sure stronger together. While the Tanasi Golf Operation is not what it once was, it is alive and well, and the future is very bright. We continue to work the problem and come up with solutions to how to get a little better with each passing day. We are managing our three buckets: the short-term, the short-term-long-term and long term. It is a crazy hectic time, but also an exciting time for Tellico Village Golf as we work to reshape the future.

Thank you all for your prayers and continued support!

TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org6
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…is it Attainable?

reetings all TVSFMA members. How was your late sum mer? Is your fall season coming to a close? I hope you and your crew were successful in your field/facility man agement strategy and well prepared for those fall sports and other activities. Most important though, did you have time to take a small break, or perhaps a vacation? The longer I’ve been in this industry, the more I realize the need to take that break. This could come in the form of a weekend getaway with family or friends, the personal work day off, or the traditional family vacation to somewhere hotter than where we reside! Our profession in a way can be umbilical to us……needing more and more of our atten tion. We, as sports field and facility managers, want our facilities to look and play at their best. I personally cannot think off-hand of a profession so detailed and precise; and that benefits so many at one time. Now having said that, there is so much to do in such a short matter of time. Projects such as complete field renovations, summer and fall routine practices of aeration, topdressing, edg ing, weed control, field painting (for some, plenty of it), and of course the redundancy of mowing has required more time than what we have. We may find ourselves justifying extra time spent to get ahead of upcoming weather and planned events. Perhaps we push our work a little longer to get things “dialed in.” To be honest, I have struggled with this for years, perhaps many of you have. I hope as I write this commentary, we can sit back and think about the concept of work and life balance, and is it attainable?

There are times in life when we have to be focused and subse quently out of rhythm, such as times we put in extra hours or sac rifice life to make some progress at work. Balance, in my opinion is never perfect. Visualize an old-fashioned balance scale. It is rare we see it perfectly balanced… more often one side is higher than the other. We can also see it move at times from side to side, rarely ending equal. We should avoid letting work and life balance be a guilt trip. Perhaps we should be thinking in a way of how work and life balance should be at THIS moment in time, and not as a whole. Let us now break this down to a simpler way to take an assessment of our lives.

The first is work. Most of us have to. It’s pretty simple, we work to get paid to provide monetary funds and benefits for our families. Within our profession specifically we are paid to make improvements and provide positive results, day in and day out.

I believe we ALL are designed to work and serve others and use our abilities to do so. I have thought so many times how blessed I am to be paid for something I love to do. Perhaps some delegation at work may be in order to lessen the load. Perhaps saying “NO, not now” is something to be said. Maybe a to do list or schedule is what you need.

The second is family. Do you communicate with family mem bers? Do you spend as much time with family as you do work? Do you take an active interest in the lives of other family members? Are you present in the moment?

The third is play. Do you enjoy spending time with friends oth er than team members? Do you like being at social gatherings? Do you have hobbies unrelated to your profession? Is there an interest that takes you completely away from the stressors of work?

The fourth is self-care. It is very important we do not forget about our minds and bodies. Sleep, nutrition, exercise, mediation, and spiritual life are all things that keep us healthy physically and mentally not only for us, but for our families.

So how do we “balance” all these aspects? If we look at each individually, we may see some slightly off-kilter and others in a se vere negative or positive state. I believe that none of these aspects will ever be equal or totally balanced. After all, we could never spend all our time with family, and not work. We can’t provide constant self-care and not have play or family time. Remember, it is natural for us to be pulled in different directions at different times. We should though, with the help of others, take notice of what’s lacking and focus on those deficiencies. I am convinced if we just make ourselves aware we can make significant strides in our personal well-being.

Finally, I want to take a minute to mention the purpose of this organization. TVSFMA is here to serve its members, whether that member is a sports turf manager or a vendor partner. Please reach out to me (bfarris@columbiatn.com) or any board member with your thoughts and ideas on how we can better serve you. Let us know what we’re good at as well as what needs some work. We’re all in this together and through our collective efforts we can grow and serve each other effectively.

G TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org8
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UPCOMING EVENTS TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org10 Register now! Early Bird discount ends Friday, December 16th, 2022 To register, visit https://www.turfgrasssod.org/events

The Tennessee Turfgrass Association serves its members in the industry through education, promotion and representation. The statements and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the association, its staff, or its board of directors, Tennessee Turfgrass Magazine, or its editors. Likewise, the appearance of advertisers, or Turfgrass Association members, does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services featured in this, past or subsequent issues of this quarterly publication.

© 2022 by the Tennessee Turfgrass Association. Tennessee Turfgrass is published bi-monthly. Subscriptions are complimentary to members of the Tennessee Turfgrass Association. Third-class postage is paid at Jefferson City, MO. Printed in the U.S.A. Reprints and Submissions: Tennessee Turfgrass allows reprinting of material. Permission requests should be directed to the Tennessee Turfgrass Association. We are not responsible for unsolicited freelance manuscripts and photographs. Contact the managing editor for contribution information. Advertising: For display and classified advertising rates and insertions, please contact Leading Edge Communica tions, LLC, 206 Bridge Street, Suite 200, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 790-3718, Fax (615) 794-4524.


YOU NEED TO PLAY WITH Adam Horn, Territory Manager, Buy Sod Inc. 615-946-1023 57th Annual TTA Conference and Trade Show JANUARY 9 – 11, 2023 Embassy Suites Murfreesboro TPI International Education Conference FEBRUARY 20 – 22, 2023 Gaylord Opryland Resort Nashville, TN GCSAA Conference and Trade Show FEBRUARY 6 – 9, 2023 Orlando, FL 2023 SFMA Conference and Exhibition JANUARY 16 – 19, 2023 Salt Lake City, UT

ince 1965, the Tennessee Turfgrass Association has held strong to its core mission: To promote the turfgrass in dustry through education, scholarship and research. We invite you to join us at this year’s conference and trade show at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro. This year’s conference fea tures an excellent education program and an expanded tradeshow floor, plus our annual awards recognitions with keynote speaker Danny Bader! This is a conference you will not want to miss!

Tennessee Turfgrass Association’s annual Conference and Trade Show has historically been a favorite event for members. A worldclass education lineup, along with certifications, networking, and award recognition rounds out full lineup of events and workshops that are essential for turfgrass professionals.

We were proud to return to an in-person event in January 2022, and we anticipate a great turnout once again for our 2023 gather ing. Be sure to register early and make plans to join us!


Please complete the registration form on page 16 and return it along with a check for all fees payable to The Tennessee Turfgrass Association. Additional copies of the form may be made as needed. Members are encouraged to email a copy of the registration form to The TTA and then mail the original with a check. Please keep a copy of the completed registration form for your confirmation. Everyone is encouraged to register early.


The TTA has reserved a block of rooms at The Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro, TN until December 3. After December 3, reservations will be subject to availability and regular rates. The room rate is $169. Please call 615-890-4464 and reference the Tennessee Turfgrass Association room block to get the group rate or use the group code TRF.

TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org12
S JANUARY 9 – 11, 2023 EMBASSY SUITES • MURFREESBORO, TN TENNESSEE TURFGRASS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE 57 TH ANNUAL & TRADESHOW With Keynote Speaker DANNY BADER facebook.com/theturfzone twitter.com/theturfzone TheTurfZone.com is the central hub for turfgrass research and information from multiple state turf associations. 170 ISSUES of Turfgrass Magazines 555,000+ Annual Digital Page Views 381 Podcasts and Many More to Come! DOZENS of Upcoming Turfgrass Events sales@leadingedgecommunications.com 888–707-7141 Contact us today to learn about effective and unique TurfZone marketing strategies that target turf industry professionals.


The Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro is located at 1200 Conference Center Boulevard, Murfreesboro, TN 37129. From I-24 East or West take exit 76 Medical Center Parkway. Head north on Medical Center Parkway, hotel is located on the right. It is located 29 miles (35 minutes) from the Nashville airport (BNA). You may reach the hotel by calling 615-890-4464.


Applications for pesticide points have been submitted to Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.


This program has been submitted for GCSAA continuing education.


For more information, call The Association office at 615-928-7001, email info@ttaonline.org



Learn all you need for the Category 3 exam required to be a certified applicator in TN. At the end of the


registration fees for this session

$175. These fees


Please complete the registration form on page 16 and return it

with a check for all fees payable to The Tennessee Turfgrass Association. You can also pay online. You must pre-register for this session no later than December 10.


more information, call The Association office

615-928-7001, email info@ttaonline.org

8:00 AM – 5:00 PM Embassy Suites • 1200 Conference Center Blvd Murfreesboro, TN 37129 You must pre-register for this session. The last day to register will be on December 10.
session, all individuals have the opportunity to take the exam.
include instruction, materials, lunch and the exam.
Don’t miss your opportunity to exhibit your products and services at the trade show. Complete the form on page 18 and return to TTA! FIND REGISTRATION INFORMATION AT https://ttaonline.org/event-4817082 WWW.PROGRESSIVETURFEQUIP.COM 800.668.8873 Better Built. Quality Results. Period. Quality built in North America and supported by a world-wide Dealer network. Tri-Deck cutting widths: 12’, 15.5’, 22’*, 36’* Roller Mower cutting widths: 65”, 90”, 10.5’, 12’, 15.5’, 22’*, 29.5’* Contour/rough finishing mower: Pro-Flex™ 120B 10’ cut TDR-X™ roller mower 10.5’ cut Progressive Turf builds the right mowers and rollers for any field. For over 30 years they have set and re-set the standards in commercial grade mowing equipment. Contact your Progressive Dealer to find out why Progressive products are outstanding in any field! * available with bolt-on galvanized deck shells Turf Grass Production Mowers Contour / Rough Finishing Mowers Sports field, Park and Estate Mowers



TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org14 MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2023 TIME 8:00 –8:10 AM Welcome & Opening Remarks The Mission of TTA Chris Sykes, TTA President Training for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Pesticide Certification Exam Learn all you need for the Category 3 and Category 7 Exams required to be a certified application in TN Dr. Darrell Hensley University of Tennessee 8:10 –10:00 AM Keynote Speaker The Vital Nature of Vision…Always Commit to Better Days Ahead Danny Bader 10:00 –10:10 AM BREAK 10:00 –12:00 PM Do You Have A People Plan? John and Jodie Cunningham 12:00 –1:30 PM TTA Stars of the Industray Awards Luncheon and Annual Business Meeting 1:45 –5:00 PM Supply Chain Roundtable Austin Lanzerone, Barenburg Bob McLean as contact Dr. Jeff Marvin, PBI Gordon Jonathan Huff, Nouryon Jim Moon, Harrell’s Boyd Montgomery Jeff Wyatt as contact Take the Exam to Become a Certified Applications in TN Dr. Darrell Hensley University of TN
10, 2023 TIME Turfgrass Deep Dives 7:00 –7:30 AM Prayer and Fellowship Scott Lehman, In His Grip Golf Ministries 8:00 –8:15 AM 2022 Rounds for Research Update Paul Carter, CGCS, Bear Trace at Harrison Bay 8:15 –10:15 AM Shade Management for Sports Fields, Golf Courses, & Lawns Drs. John Sorochan and John Stier, Univ. of Tennessee 10:15 –10:30 AM BREAK 10:30 AM –12:30 PM What’s New in Pest Management? Drs. Jim Brosnan and Brandon Horvath, Univ. of Tennessee 12:30 –4:30 PM Lunch and Fun on the Trade Show Floor 6:00 –9:00 PM Top Golf Event Transportation Provided WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2023 TIME Golf Turf Sod & Sports Turf Hands-On Workshop Hands-On Irrigation Workshop 8:00 –8:45 AM Course Renovations: Lessons Learned Gil Hanse Will Misenheimer Clayton Peele Lucas Sykes Sand Selection for Sports Turf Adam Thoms, PhD Iowa State University Equipment Managers Workshop If the turf is the canvas, the mower is the paintbrush. Learn how to properly con figure mowers to optimize turfgrass quality and reduce pest invasion Irrigation Technology Workshop TBD Adam Porteneir, Nashville SC Eric Holland, Precision Turf 10:30 –10:45 AM BREAK 10:45 –11:45 AM The Road to Winged Foot Steve Rabideau Winged Foot Branding Your Facility Jeff Mondor Aerflo 11:45 AM –12:00 PM TGCSA Update TVSFMA Update 12:00 PM Adjourn JANUARY 9 – 11, 2023 • EMBASSY SUITES • MURFREESBORO, TN CONFERENCE SCHEDULE 57 TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE
TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org16 5 7 th Annual Conference & Tradeshow Registration Form ASSOCIATION Ja nuary 911, 202 3 Embassy S uites H otel Murfreesboro, TN Please complete the registration 0 Franklin Rd 40 Frankl WWW in, TN 37069 .ttaonline.org CONTACT INFORMATION e to Contact: Representativ Company Nam Mailing Addre City/State/Zip e: ss form and return it along with a check for all fees payable to The Tennessee Turfgrass Association. Additional copies of the form may be made as needed. Members are encouraged to email a copy of the registration form to The TT A and then mail the original with a check. Please keep a copy of the completed registration form for your confirmation. Ph one ______________________ E mail _________________ _ Name (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) ***Registration fees for the full conference and one day pass include TT A Membership Dues Everyone must be registered in order to have a name badge. Your name badge will serve as admittance to all events. 3 or More First Two Full Full Conference Conference Registrants Registrants* $375 *** $275 *** One Day Pass (Limit 1)** $250 *** ■ I I. □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday F irst T im e Attendee O ne Day P ass (Limit 1)** $200 ■ I I. □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday □ Monday □ Tuesday □ Wednesday *Registrants from the same facility are eligible for discounted full conference registration fees if 2 individuals are registered at the full conference price. **You must choose which day will be attended in advance. T op G o l f Y ou must be r e gistered for the con fer e nce t o attend. $100 Total Amount Due Total
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TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org18 57th Annual Conference & Tradeshow January 9 11, 2023 Embassy Suites Hotel Murfreesboro, TN CONTACT INFORMATION Company Name Representative to Contact: Mailing Address City/State/Zip Phone Email Submission of this registration form to the Tennessee Turfgrass Association constitutes your commitment to serve as an exhibi tor and your agreement to pay exhibitor fee. Please provide a brief description of the products/services you sell or provide: Please complete this form and mail with payment to: Tennessee Turfgrass Association 400 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN 37069 | 615 928 7001 | info@ttaonline.org FIRST CHOICE SECOND CHOICE THIRD CHOICE Booth Preference Level of Sponsorship Badge Name Diamond $6000 Platinum $3500 Gold $2500 Booth $800 Silver $1500 Bronze $1000 Total 1. 2. $100 $100 3. $100 $100 $100 $100 4. $100 $100 $100 $100 5. $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 6. $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 7. $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 8. $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 Amount of Sponsorship Total Amount Due
Your partner in maximizing savings. Eastern TN John Henderson (423) 836-3404

A glimpse into the future, as The Toro Company test their robotic GeoLink® Solutions™ Autonomous Fairway Mower at several sites across the U.S. this year. GPS, on-board cameras and sensors give this equipment “ma chine vision” to mow fairways consistently with perfectly straight lines, even in conditions with poor visibility, while reducing overlap and avoiding obstacles. Be prepared for “driverless” equipment in the years to come!

Photo credits: The Toro Company

This article was originally written for and published in the Fall 2022 issue of Alabama Turf Times. It was written and compiled by James Horton with generous contributions of two leading turfgrass researchers engaged in developing and perfecting the capabilities of the next generation of turfgrass equipment and technology. Their information, suggestions, photos and time spent communicating their ideas and knowledge was greatly appreciated.

Chase Straw, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Turfgrass Management and Physiology, Texas A&M University

David McCall, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

In addition, two contributors should be acknowledged for their help in making this article possible. Both have extensive turfgrass equipment knowledge and provided information and photos.

Andy Cook, District Sales Manager, Commercial Golf, The Toro Company

Mickey Pitts, Golf and Turf Territory Manager, Beard Equipment Company


next step in the evolution of turfgrass equip ment and technology is upon us. University and corporate researchers agree that over the next 10 years, the advancements will be nothing short of amaz ing. This is due to the perfect storm of several factors: technology has progressed to the point where it’s being applied to all aspects of equipment design; materials are in short supply and even if the item is available, the high cost will require managers to conserve and eliminate waste; environmental awareness, including the intel ligent use of pesticides, fertilizers and water, are important to the turfgrass industry, because it speaks of our professionalism. Most importantly, the growing labor shortage we’ve seen is not going away anytime soon. All these factors have been noticed and are be ing addressed by those developing the next generation of turfgrass equipment and technology. It is impossible to fully prognosticate the future with complete accuracy. However, to confirm the incred ible direction that equipment and technology design is heading, here are a few hypothetical scenarios that have real promise.

Sometime in the near future…

A golf course superintendent launches a drone for a routine fairway flyover to look for signs of insect infestations, especially armyworms, since historical data alerts the superintendent that armyworm infestation may be possible this month. The drone is equipped with a sensor measuring vegetation indices, which can detect turfgrass health and stress by measuring leaf tissue bio mass. A reduction in turfgrass biomass indicates where army worms might be feeding. The drone’s on-board high-resolution RGB camera is also used to photograph any location showing a predetermined level of biomass reduction, while GPS technol ogy captures the coordinates of those locations. After photos are reviewed, armyworms are discovered and confirmed by ground truthing. Mapping is created using GIS Technology to identify

TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org20

locations showing less biomass and increased stress than two days before, while compensating for mowing. Since the caterpillars were discovered before much damage is done, the infestation is local ized. The decision is made to send a second drone for site specific treatment. This spray drone is given the GPS coordinates mapped by the first drone, to precisely fly along a pre-programmed route and spray only the turfgrass needing treatment. On subsequent days, additional drone flights are made to monitor the treated lo cations for biomass increase (regrowth), as well as other possible armyworm intrusions across the entire golf course.

A sod producer uses a drone equipped with ground penetrating radar (GPR) to measure root mass to determine which field, or area of field, is ready for harvest. All areas of turfgrass having sufficient root mass to harvest are mapped by variety using GPS coordinates. A ready-to-harvest map is created using GIS infor mation and is matched by variety to the customer’s order request. The day of harvest, with certain environmental parameters, such as soil moisture, temperature and other factors set by the sod pro ducer being satisfied, the harvest map is sent to a fully Autono mous GPS harvester which uses the information to cut, stack and load the sod for the consumer’s order.

A sports turf manager uses a mobile sensor unit to identify areas of soil compaction on several sports fields. The sensor unit uses three sensors to determine penetration resistance, soil mois ture and turfgrass stress, across each field. All the data will be geo referenced using GPS and GIS generated individual spatial maps for each measured characteristic (creating layers of information). Once the layers of data are reviewed, any area meeting the thresh old of soil compaction needing aeration to correct the problem is mapped. The information detailing the coordinates is linked to a GPS core aerifier equipped with Autosteer, a GPS guidance sys tem, which steers the unit across the sports fields. Using the GIS maps, the aerator is engaged to aerify all areas of each sports field needing aerification with centimeter accuracy.

A lawn care technician uses a ride-on applicator equipped with AutoSteer and Ground Penetration Radar (GPR). The GPR is calibrated to detect grubs within the rootzone and the entire lawn is driven so that data can be collected and mapped. Areas of the lawn having a threshold of a predetermined number of grubs per square foot are mapped with GPS accuracy. GIS mapping using real-time data processing technology detects while on-the-move, areas of the lawn that will benefit from treatment and makes a near instantaneous decision on whether to treat for grubs or not.

Will the next era of cutting-edge turfgrass equipment and tech nology as described above come to fruition? Well, it’s important to remember what Chase Straw, Ph.D., Texas A&M, said, “I see new technology being used in Precision Agriculture (PA) and it’s just a matter of time before it trickles down to Precision Turfgrass Man agement (PTM).” In fact, if you do a quick internet search for the type of technologies being tested and used in agriculture today, you will see that the scenarios above are within reach of all the cultural practices performed by the turfgrass industry. Another university researcher, David McCall, Ph.D., Virginia Tech had this to say, “The Turfgrass Industry is in its infancy of developing this new tech nology as compared to mainstream agriculture. However, turfgrass research has been moving so fast the last 8 to 10 years, that if you don’t get the research published in one or two years, it could be out dated!” So, the short answer to that question is YES!

One should remember that this new technology has been used in Precision Agriculture for 10 to 20+ years. So, Precision Turf grass Management research is able to ride the coattails (research) in most cases of Precision Agriculture, which partially explains

why research is moving so fast in turfgrass. As in PA, innova tions being developed today for turfgrass application are being applied across all operations, and many of these innovations will conserve inputs by only allowing them to be delivered to specific areas (Site-Specific Management Units) where they are needed. This will improve input efficiency and minimize any potential negative environmental aspects. In Part 1 of this article, specific areas, SSMUs, were identified as areas with similar soil, topogra phy, microclimate, and plant response. Inputs refer to fertilizers, pesticides, water, energy, and labor.



As you no doubt noticed, GPS (Global Positioning Systems) technology was mentioned in every scenario above. It is a lo cation and tracking system that has the potential to be used with every cultural practice turfgrass managers perform; ir rigation, applications of fertilizer and pesticide, cultivation, mowing and harvesting. This technology will become ever more common with each passing year as it becomes available on most all new equipment going forward. It will be imperative for turfgrass managers to understand, operate and utilize this feature, especially since it will have a direct and immediate im pact on their operations to save time, money, and labor. It is the technology that tracks sensors identifying SSMU coordinates and directs GPS sprayers and spreaders to their targets when mak ing applications. It provides steering coordinates to autonomous equipment, while taking into account elevation, field boundar ies, irrigation systems, nearby roads, buildings and much more. You may notice that GNSS tracking is used by some equipment. GNSS is a term that refers to the international Global Navigation Satellite System, meaning this equipment’s tracking system has access to more than just the GPS satellites. GNSS typically in cludes GPS(U.S.), GLONASS (Russia), BeiDou (China), Galileo (European), and many other constellation systems.

GIS (Geographic Information System) is a computer-based tool that creates visual map representations of GPS data and performs spatial analyses in order to make informed decisions. It has been used for years in Precision Agriculture comparing variables like soil type, wind direction, rainfall amount, slope, aspect, topogra phy, and elevation to assist with crop management, site suitabil ity, drainage planning and much more. Researchers that use this technology say it’s easy to see that the real power of GIS lies in its ability to quickly analyze multiple data layers, or variables, and create maps to illustrate the nature, degree, and implications of spatial differences to site managers so that budget priorities can be adjusted accordingly.

The use of GPS and GIS technologies working together to assist Precision Turfgrass Management is still in its inception. Researchers are learning how to best use the large amounts of spatial data to track and map turf response to soil moisture, fertility, soil compac tion, weed pressure, insect and disease outbreaks and inputs such as irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides to make better informed, efficient decisions in the future. In addition to mapping, GPS/GIS technology could be instrumental in tracking and documenting all work and materials used, such as information related to gallons or pounds applied, square footage treated, time in the field, etc. This information can be stored separately in layers and used to track all inventories, labor, equipment maintenance and service, and all other overhead costs which could then be applied to a computer model to monitor a budget or establish fees for service and materials.



The initial challenge limiting PTM has been the development of appropriate mobile sensor platforms for mapping both key soil and plant attributes. University and industry researchers see the future of turfgrass equipment developed to work autonomously using sensor data collected by either stationary or mobile (aerial and ground) sensors to perform most, if not all operations of turfgrass cultural practices.

Ground Penetrating Radar: The principles involved with GPR are similar to seismology, except GPR methods implement elec tromagnetic energy rather than acoustic energy. GPR units are normally mounted to platforms that resemble push mowers, but tow behind models are also available. Images produced by GPR equipment are called ground-penetrating radargrams and require time and experience to read with accuracy since the images look like screen distortion.

Dr. David McCall said, “Ground penetrating radar allows re searchers to look below the surface of the soil to look at water movement, root development and even the depth of soil and the different layers of subsoil in many cases.”

“It’s understandable that GPR technology is also gaining pop ularity in identifying irrigation and drain lines under golf greens and sports fields,” said Dr. Chase Straw. He added, “It’s actually being used now to spot broken irrigation pipe or clogged drain lines. There’s also been some testing using the ground penetrating radar to correlate surface hardness to the data collected by the Clegg Hammer. If this becomes possible, GPR would make this measurement much easier and faster, however the Clegg Ham mer would be less expensive. Interestingly, GPR has been used to detect the size of potatoes underground using a drone flyover, so researchers may in the future find a way to use this radar to detect the root mass of turfgrass. This could be a useful tool to help sod producers decide when to harvest their sod.” In the future, there is no doubt that other uses for GPR technology will lead to some very interesting possibilities!

Electromagnetic Induction: EMI is a piece of equipment that operates as a tow behind sled and resembles ground penetrating radar, but it measures soil electrical conductivity (EC) or salinity. When used with a GPS system, it can generate salinity maps. Basi cally, this equipment uses electrical pulses directed downward and is highly correlated to clay content and organic matter. Dr. Straw said, “With GPS and GIS, it’s possible to create a map indicating clay content and organic matter. However, more research is needed for it to benefit turfgrass managers, because currently, it measures soils down to about 20 inches. This may be useful to understand ing drainage; but if the depth could be altered to capture only the depth of the turfgrass root zone, it would be very useful in making fertility decisions and the water holding capability of the soil.”

Thermal Imaging: Also known as Infrared Thermal Imaging (IRTI). All objects emit infrared energy, known as a heat signature. Dr. McCall put it this way, “A thermal imaging camera looks at the reflectance of wavelengths in the thermal range to detect heat trans fer or hot spots. The most obvious reason to use this type of camera is to help map soil moisture levels. However, hotspots can be caused by things other than drought. It can also be used to determine if a plant, or a series of plants such as turfgrass, are transpiring prop erly. Using that information, researchers try to determine what’s causing the plant to react in that manner. Early stages of pathogen development such as brown patch in tall fescue has been found to do the same.” A graduate student working with Dr. McCall discov ered that it was possible to see thermal patterns within tall fescue turfgrass that was being attacked by the brown patch pathogen sev eral days before any visible symptoms became apparent to the eye.

LiDAR: Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) uses eye-safe laser beams to “see” the world in 3D, providing machines and com puters an accurate representation of the surveyed environment.

Soil moisture data collection can be accomplished today using mobile hand-held sensors (Figure 1 > A. External GNSS Receiver; B. FieldScout TDR 300 Soil Moisture/Salinity Meter) or mobile tow-behind sensors (Figure 2 > Toro Precision Sense 6000). Both data collection methods are capable of producing final georeferenced soil moisture data points using GIS map ping technology (Figure 3) to help turfgrass managers better understand soil moisture across their venues to establish the best use of irrigation. Photo credits this section: Dr. Chase Straw, Texas A&M

Figure 4. Tow-behind electromagnetic induction unit, DUALEM-1S with external GNSS receiver. Photo credit: Dr. Chase Straw, Texas A&M

Dr. McCall added, “LiDAR allows researchers to look at certain surface characteristics, such as topography, to help determine if pests are developing in low-lying areas, or higher elevations of turf grass. Some cameras with motion sensors and LiDAR are being used to develop 3-D models to identify and monitor the formation of “lips” at the interface of the infield and outfield on baseball/ softball fields. If this technique could be perfected it would allow the sports turf manager the ability to monitor and schedule cor rective action before this maintenance practice became a problem.”

Figure 1. Figure 2. Figure 3.
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Multispectral and Hyperspectral Imagery: The sensors capturing these images are key to producing Vegetation Indi ces (VI) which are important measurements in plant analyt ics today, and one of Precision Agriculture’s biggest tools in remote sensing to understand plant health in real time. VIs are single numerical values (which vary depending on the Index used) that are computed from multiband images (photos) that can be used to quantify vegetation health. Images are typically taken by sensors from satellites, mobile ground units or drones. Algorithms analyze the images and assess various aspects of plant (turfgrass) growth, vigor, biomass, green cover percentage, leaf area index and chlorophyll content. (Chlorophyll content can indicate early stages of drought stress and is also a strong indica tor of nitrogen availability in the plant.) The higher the vegetation index number assigned to a plant aspect, presumably the higher plant vigor or health present. The Normalized Difference Vegeta tion Index (NDVI) is arguably the most common and well-known vegetation index.

Toro Precision Sense 6000: The Toro Company created a tow be hind mobile unit combining five sensors to capture a variety of mea surements as it passes over turfgrass. (See Figure 6a.) The PS6000 collects data such as soil moisture – volumetric water content (VWC), salinity, compaction, turf vigor – Normalized Difference

Vegetation Index (NDVI), and topography. Data is stored in an on board computer during the collection process and relayed to Toro for creation of GIS-referenced map images. Turf managers can then receive two types of reports – 1) Precision Irrigation Audit, and/or 2) Precision Irrigation Management Zones. The PS6000 was primarily designed to collect soil conditions on well-maintained lawns in parks, golf courses, sports fields, and commercial grounds. It is equipped with a Foam Marker to aid navigation by marking the centerline of each pass, with each pass being 10-15 feet apart. The optimum speed for collecting soil data is 3.1 km/h (1.9 mph).


Also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), drones will have an ever-increasing role in the future of the turfgrass industry. Not only are drones used today to capture great real-time photographs and videos of ground conditions, but researchers are increasingly exploring the use of drones to carry a vast array of sensors to ana lyze a host of turfgrass conditions and making localized applica tions using drone sprayers in the future. Dr. Chase Straw stated “More research is being done with drone sensors to learn how to better correlate the information collected to understand turfgrass real-time conditions and response to stress. The reason so much research is going in that direction is because drone data is so much easier and faster to collect!” The same can be said for making drone applications of pesticides. Dr. Straw said, “Why drive to the far side of a golf course to make a few spot applications, when a drone sprayer could be programed to do it so much faster?”

It should be noted that drone research for turfgrass use is still in the very early stages of development. Precision Agriculture, on the other hand, has used drones for years and has the experience of correlating remote sensor information gathered not only by drones, but also by satellites to document soil, pest, and environmental conditions to better understand and observe plant response to those conditions. The type and sophistication of sensors being used in agricultural research is growing with potentially endless information being collected. Below are some of the sensors that drones currently use in agricul ture that are also being used in turfgrass research.

Phenotyping, spatial analysis, and vegetation indices are all be ing used to interpret the aerial data being collected per specific surveys. The aerial data is then compared to on-ground tests and observations (ground truthing) to correlate the results, to make sure the researchers understand the findings so they can re-cali brate their instruments to give even more accurate estimations of the results

the future.

Figure 5. Example of Digital Aerial Imagery Analysis: Drone photo (left) and computerized digital image of the same drone photo (right). Photo credit: Dr. David McCall, Virginia Tech Dr. David McCall has been using drones to record spectral and GPS mapping data to improve the understanding of Spring Dead Spot epidemiology. He has achieved a 65% fungicide reduction using site specific treatments. Photo credit: Dr. David McCall, Virginia Tech
Figure 6. Toro Precision Sense 6000: 1) Control box; 2) GNSS (GPS) antenna; 3) Foam marker; 4) Clutch; 5) Head holding the soil mois ture, soil salinity, and soil compaction sensors; 6) Two active sensors measuring normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI); 7) Tines measure moisture, salinity and compaction; 8) Arm that rotates and inserts the sensor tines into the ground; 9) Operator’s display to moni tor the unit. Photo credit: The Toro Company 2 1 8 4 6 93 5 7 TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org24

Current turfgrass research applications use drones to iden tify, monitor and study the following:

• Crop Yield > Growth, Biomass, Canopy Density

• Nutrient Status

• Water Stress

• Disease Incidence

• Weed Infestation

• Chemical and Nutrient Applications

• Turf Inventory Management

• Species Classification

• Invasive Grasses and Vegetation, Especially in Remote Areas

At Virginia Tech several researchers including Dr. David Mc Call and Dr. Shawn Askew, along with Daewon Koo and Caleb Henderson, both graduate research assistants are working on ways to use drone technology to improve Precision Turfgrass Management. One area of study receiving a great deal of atten tion is the use of spray drones. Here is what Dr. Askew had to say, “Spray drones are available from a number of manufacturers ranging from smaller, consumer-level drones that carry 2.6 to 5.3 gallons, to larger commercial types that carry 40 gallons or more. The biggest problem that limits further adoption of spray drone technology is regulatory uncertainty.” He cites problems with no EPA pesticide registration for drone use; no formal position by EPA on spray drone registration (even though some states indi cate that aerial application does extend to spray drones); and the increased regulatory burden associated with licensing through the Federal Aviation Administration. He also mentioned the follow ing, “Some research studies have shown successful weed control with spray drones, but the range of available equipment and pos sible application parameters could lead to inconsistent results.” He then referenced the issues of drift caused by the drone’s pro pellers, low pump capacities and smaller spray tips that were sub ject to massive losses of spray deposition due to droplet vapor ization and off-target drift, especially when drones are operated at heights greater than six feet. Dr. Askew said, “Our research suggests that successful drone spray deposition requires enough pump capacity to operate drift-reduction spray tips such as induc tion nozzles, utilize nozzles evenly spaced along a boom similar to conventional ground equipment, and be operated as close to the vegetation target as the spray drone will allow.”

It’s clear to see that the issues with government regulations, along with additional research regarding pump capacities, nozzle design and placement, as well as possible chemical formulations and drift

control agents, will all need more answers before drones conduct aerial spraying. When drone spraying does become commonplace, it most likely will begin with sod producers first, followed by golf. This will definitely be one area to watch moving into the future!


One of the most dynamic features of new turfgrass equipment of the future involves battery power. This part of the market is moving at lightning speed. There are several reasons for this move toward battery powered equipment and away from con ventional gas and diesel. Legislation in several states and mu nicipalities are phasing out the use and in some instances the sale of new gas-powered lawn equipment. California’s governor signed a bill to phase out the sale of all new gas-powered lawn equipment in that state by 2024. These new laws cite the need for reducing air and noise pollution. Many subdivisions, nursing homes, hospitals, and schools here in Alabama have restrictions on noise pollution during certain hours of the day and days of the week. Seeing these trends, some companies have decided this is the wave of the future that they want to ride. As an example, in its Sustainability Report for fiscal 2021, The Toro Company stated that one of its goals was to increase battery and hybrid product sales to at least 20% of total adjusted net sales (motor ized product sales) by fiscal 2025.

Even though battery powered equipment offers reduced noise and environmental impact, the initial purchase price as com pared to its gas/diesel counterparts could turn some buyers away. However, there are other considerations that turfgrass managers should review that might cause them to take a second look at battery power equipment. The newer batteries are lighter, more powerful, longer lasting, and charge faster; and the technology is only getting better each year. Battery powered equipment now covers the full spectrum of maintenance equipment including mowers, blowers, weedeaters, pruners, chainsaws and more. Many times, the equipment is built on the same frames as the gas/diesel models, so they are just as tough and then there’s the reduced op erational and time saving feature of reduced maintenance costs. Some say that operational costs for battery powered equipment could be 35% less than conventional gas/diesel powered equip ment. Remember, the batteries are powering electric motors turn ing wheels, operating steering, and driving the blades or other at tachments. There’s no fuel, oil, belts, or filters; and no coolant or hydraulic fluid on the bigger equipment.

The HyperCell™ battery was developed by Toro specifically to meet the demands of commercial use. Toro launched its new Revolution series of batterypowered commercial equipment using this HyperCell™ technology. Along with the Battery Management System (BMS), this series of mowers allow longer runtime, quick charging to maximize productivity and greater battery life cycle. The proprietary battery packs deliver 2.3 kWh per pack and were designed to run cooler than other power systems. Photo credit: The Toro Company TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org26

Another area of research to watch involves the type of new batteries being developed. Currently, most batteries being used across all industries, including the turfgrass industry, are Lithium ion (Li-ion). However, the next generation of batteries being de veloped include:

• Lithium-sulfur (Li-s) – have up to 3 times the energy density of Li-ion

• Sodium – larger than Li-ion batteries but cheaper to produce

• Lithium – air (Li-air) – hold over 40 times the charge of Li-ion batteries. These batteries are still quite some time from being ready for mass production.

• Hydrogen Fuel Cells are being considered for small equipment. So, what is a hydrogen fuel cell? In the simplest terms, a hydrogen fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce heat, electricity, and water – they are very similar to a battery, but they can keep producing power as long as hydrogen is sup plied. Tech companies are reportedly already experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell powered mowers, so expect to see these in the next decade.

• Solar Power panels are currently available to charge Lithium batteries, but as a power source to power commercial equipment, it’s not there yet. However, solar panels supplying electrical pow er to charging stations has real possibilities. Many in the turf industry will have crews working away from a convenient power source to recharge their equipment. This poses a new challenge/ opportunity for innovation. Battery-recharging setups will be a focus in the future, especially as more landscape companies opt for electric equipment. Stihl has debuted a prototype cabinet in a standard trailer with multiple charging units for repowering equipment on the go. At some point, don’t be surprised to see more box trailers and trucks with solar panels on roofs and sides, supplying power to their mobile charging station. As manufac turers of battery equipment continue to improve the efficiency while working toward keeping the purchase price competi tive, it looks like the future of battery powered equipment will “charge forward.”


Without question the number one category of turfgrass equip ment is the mower; after all, it was the first mechanical piece of lawn equipment invented due to the overwhelming need. Manu facturers continue to meet that need by providing a range of rug ged, strong, dependable equipment for the turfgrass industry. In recent years, we have seen vast improvement in maneuverability of mowers, especially with the bigger units. Today, many of the improvements made in the design of mowers involve the use of new technology to make mowing even more efficient, faster, and safer. Two of the biggest mower advancements that technology is providing today involve steering and power source.

Steering options, such as Autonomous, Autosteer and Remote Control have arrived on the scene just as the turfgrass industry has seen a reduction in the workforce and skilled labor willing to work agricultural related jobs. These new steering options can help attract and retain new employees, while improving productivity and quality of work. However, the terminology around these steering options is sometimes misused and can be confusing, even in some advertising. As Dr. McCall stated, “There is a lot of overlap in terminology of steering options, so most people aren’t alone in not being complete ly clear about differentiating between the different options.” The fol lowing statements explain the difference in terminology.

Autonomous mowers can be considered robotic mowers. They are programmed by humans to perform the necessary functions of mowing by following a programmed set of in structions, under defined conditions, without a human driver. The program establishes the mowing route, sets the boundaries, and in some cases, the start times. Once the initial programming has taken place, the equipment’s internal computer does every thing from there, totally unassisted and driverless. Autonomous mowers have built-in detection sensors that ensure obstacle avoid ance. It can make decisions based on sensor input, technically al lowing the mower to have “a mind of its own,” without human direction or guidance.

Autosteer (AS) equipped mowers are operated with a human in the driver’s seat; they engage the AS feature when needed. This technology relies heavily on GPS to know where the unit is and where it needs to go when engaged. To begin the process, the opera tor will program the initial pass, either straight and/or curved, and once AS is engaged, the equipment will make parallel lines off the first pass until programmed differently. Autosteer equipment will travel the predetermined path, hands-free with a level of accuracy that was impossible to reach before. It reduces overlap and missed areas, saves time and fuel, reduces operator fatigue and increases production and quality. Some of the older AS equipment still re quire manual functions, such as turning around for a new pass or getting from the shop to the fairway or field, etc.; newer versions can make pass turn-arounds on their own.

GeoLink® Solutions™ Autonomous Fairway Mowers operating “driv erless”, will allow staff to perform other duties. Photo credit: The Toro Company Cub Cadet PRO Z 972 S SurePath™ offers Autosteer. This semi-auton omous unit offers GPS assisted steering which will reduce operator fatigue while increasing production and quality of cut. Photo provided by Cub Cadet.
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Remote Control mowers operate without a human in the driver’s seating; instead, a person standing at a safe distance away operates the equipment using a wireless, hand-held remote-control device. The equipment isn’t moving autonomously. Rather, the real-time maneuvering is controlled by the human operator watching the unit mow within line-of-sight distance or further away by viewing a monitor that can be attached to the remote control. A live video from the mower mounted camera is fed to the monitor, giving the operator a view of what the mower is seeing in real-time.

Remote Control steering has been possible for many years in a variety of industries, but it is especially functional when main taining turfgrass and vegetation on steep banks. Depending on the slope, mowing banks has always been a very hazardous opera tion, but today, remotely operated mowers are making this task much safer. Take for instance the slope mowers offered by RC Mowers that were discussed in Part 1 of this article. Their mowers are equipped to maintain slopes up to 50° remotely by the opera tor hundreds of feet away. This clearly places the operator out of harm’s way of the many dangers that could be encountered. Their remote-controlled mowers with track systems are also capable of mowing in several inches of water in low, boggy areas, or along the edges of ponds. RC Mowers have plans to develop an autono mous slope mower in the future.

Autosteer has been used for almost 25 years in row crop agri culture. It has been used on tractors to till, plant, fertilize, spray, and harvest very efficiently. This technology has reached the turf grass industry and is seen on sprayers, spreaders, and more recently, mowers. John Deere offers Autosteer on sprayers and mowers, pro viding users with increased productivity and efficiency. Cub Cadet offers a zero-turn mower with Autosteer that consistently mows straight lines and can make turns without operator assistance. Au tosteer technology on mowers delivers many advantages such as less operator fatigue; more precise and consistent cut with less over lap; prevents gaps and missed areas; all while reducing the inputs of time, labor and fuel. Autosteer mowers cut more grass per hour, more acres per day and complete more work each week.

Autonomous equipment has been under development for years in agriculture, with several manufacturers releasing their autono mous tractors only within the last 10 years. John Deere released their version of an autonomous farm tractor in early 2022, stating that three dimensions had come together in the last five years to make this technology possible: 1). Significant Connectivity; 2). In creased Computational Capability; 3). Advanced Machine Learn ing Algorithms. This announcement is not surprising to those in Information Technology (IT). Mankind is currently in the 4th In dustrial Revolution (4IR), described as the convergence of digital, physical, and bio technologies driving an unrelenting acceleration of human progress. According to the July 2020 “Global Poll: Im pact of the 4th Industrial Revolution” by Quadrant Strategies*, four in five senior IT decision makers worldwide say a century’s worth of technological advancements will take place in the next five years. This advancement in technology is also helping compa nies develop equipment for the turfgrass industry.

After investing more than 20 years of research and develop ment, The Toro Company has also begun field testing their Ge oLink Solutions Autonomous Fairway Mower at several sites across the U.S. this year. The Toro press release stated, “This type of innovation aims to alleviate the issues of labor shortages and budget constraints, while increasing productivity and getting more consistent results. With the implementation of GeoLink Solutions technology, mowing will become more time and cost effective. When operating autonomously, the built-in detection capability ensures avoidance of obstacles. After defining the mowing bound ary, a variety of mowing patterns can be selected. The mowers operate consistently for perfectly straight lines, even in condi tions with poor visibility, and during the cleanup pass. Even more efficiency is achieved by utilizing the entire width of the mower, reducing overlap, and self-transport between mowing areas.”

While discussing autonomous equipment, Dr. McCall was asked, “In the future, there’s a real possibility that we’ll relinquish more control of equipment to artificial intelligence. Should we trust technology to safely operate autonomous equipment driver less?” Dr. McCall had an interesting reply. He said, “There are times when things may go wrong with autonomous equipment. Generally speaking, it won’t go wrong as often as human error. Autonomous equipment has fewer accidents compared to humans operating the same equipment.” While he thinks autonomous equipment has the technology to ensure that it’s operating safely, Dr. McCall said, “It’s understandable that turfgrass managers will be nervous until they have tested and experienced this equipment for themselves, at their facilities. And this will take time.”

Another big mower advancement driven by need and provid ed by technology, is battery power. This was covered earlier, but since we’re already seeing manufacturers offering battery powered mowers, and in some cases hybrid mowers and other equipment for commercial use, it’s worth mentioning here.

John Deere has released the E-Cut™ Series Hybrid Fairway Mower with diesel engine and a 48-V, 180-amp alternator that powers brushless electric reel drive motors, requiring no additional batteries. The electric reel drive system eliminates all potential hy draulic leak points in the reel circuit. The Hybrid System offers re duced fuel consumption, noise reduction and hydraulic leak points.

John Deere E-Cut™ Hybrid Walk mower

RC Mowers — Model TK-60XP Slope Mower can maintain vegetation on slopes up to 50° remotely, with the operator hundreds of feet away completely out of harm’s way. Photo credit: James Horton John Deere offers both of the mowers above with conventional gas/ diesel engines with alternators that power brushless electric reel drive motors, eliminating all potential hydraulic leak points in the reel circuit. Photo credit: John Deere John Deere 7500A E-Cut™ Hybrid Fairway mower
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The Toro Company has released battery and hybrid mowers in cluding Toro’s Greensmaster ® eTriFlex ® riding greens mower, Greensmaster® e1021 Series walk greens mowers and Reelmas ter® 5010-H hybrid fairway mowers. Toro also offers an electric version of the Workman® GTX utility vehicles. In addition, Toro has introduced the Revolution series of commercial-grade mow ers designed for professional use, that is powered with a lithium battery system – HyperCellTM. This series includes a stand-on mower (The Grandstand®), a zero turn mower (Z Master®) and a walk behind (HD21).


Dr. Chase Straw says it is quite possible that within 10 years the use of GPS sprayers and spreaders will be commonplace across the turfgrass industry. This equipment has been in use in row crop agriculture for years, but only more recently in turfgrass, with most of that centered in the northern states.

GPS Sprayers (tractor or golf cart mounted) are used in the fol lowing manner: the turfgrass manager drives the spray unit over the turf area, while marking the perimeter of the area to be sprayed

Both the Toro and John Deere sprayers shown offer Autosteer and Vari able Rate Application with individual nozzle control and RTK correction.

Toro Commercial Battery Operated Mowers have electric deck and drive motors, eliminating the need for gas/diesel, oil, belts and pullies. Opera tors gain efficiencies with reduced maintenance. At the same time, there are no emissions and the units are much quieter than any gas-powered mower. The Grandstand and Z Master offer HyperCell™ battery technol ogy. Photo credit for all three photos below: The Toro Company Toro Workman GTX is now avaiable with Lithium-Ion battery powered. Photo credit for both photos below: The Toro Company

Toro 5800 Multi Pro® Turf Sprayer with GeoLink® Precision Spray System Photo credit: Dr. David McCall, Virginia Tech Greensmaster® eTriFlex™ Hybrid Mower can mow all 18 greens, including the pattern, plus travel time, on a single charge, according to golf course superintendents that have used this model. Greensmaster eTriflex 3370 Mow er, as with other Toro electric mod els, carry no hydraulic fluid and utilize all-electric components for traction, steering, lift and reel drive All Toro mowers below are “all-electric” powered by Lithium-Ion battery pack. Photo credit for all three photos below: The Toro Company Greensmaster e Flex 1021 & e1021 Walk Greens Mowers are among the quietest and most efficient walk greensmowers on the market today. John Deere Progator™ 2030A GPS Precision Sprayer with AutoTRac™ Photo Credit: John Deere Z Master The Grandstand HD 21 Walk Behind Self-Pro pelled Mower powered by a 60V MAX Lithium-Ion Battery The Toro GTX battery compartment. Toro Workman GTX Lithium is the largest lithium-ion model in its class. The lithium power packs are maintenance-free and have a long lifespan.
TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org32

using the onboard computer. The computer program controlling the spray application then shows a digital map of the turf area on a monitor. The spray unit begins spraying just inside the known perimeter and continues spraying the first swath till it crosses the digital perimeter at the end of the pass. Once there, it stops spray ing while the unit is turned around. The unit repeats the procedure once it crosses inside the perimeter and makes the next pass.

Some GPS sprayers are equipped with Autosteer for more pre cise steering. Each pass shows up as a color-coded rectangle on the monitor, indicating the width of the swath sprayed. (Different manufacturers offer different color displays.) Missed areas show up clearly as a different color or no color, overlaps show up as darker strips indicating the area had been sprayed twice. It’s just that sim ple. Some GPS sprayers have the added feature of Variable Rate Application (VRA) VRA comes into play when the data support ing the spray application can provide the onboard computer the coordinates of specific zone (SSMU) requirements within the field of treatment. For this to work, each nozzle on the spray boom is individually controlled by the computer, with the VRA technology controlling the rate of application to match the GIS rate-of-appli cation map. “The precision of GPS Sprayers with VRA technology can make applications within inches of target while on-the-move; and will only apply one application, no matter how many times an area is driven over, thus reducing overlaps” according to Dr. David McCall, Virginia Tech. This is quite impressive and accomplishes the goals of PA and PTM quite well.

Dr. McCall sees the future of GPS sprayers as limitless when com bined with the use of various sensors and GIS technology. Dr. Mc Call envisions over the next 10 years having mobile ground or aerial sensors capable of collecting large amounts of data from one pass over the turf area being maintained. All the data would be analyzed using GIS technology, separating all the problems and pests (such as dry spots, brown patch, dollar spot, green kyllinga, white clover, etc.) into individual layers of information. Detailed digital maps would be created for each specific problem or pest (such as brown patch). Each specific map would contain all the GPS coordinates of each location for that particular problem or pest across the entire area being maintained. All the different layers of information would be transferred to the GPS sprayer. With technology that exists today, rather than having one tank filled with whatever product to make a single blanket application, there would be one tank filled with wa ter, and smaller tanks carrying various pesticides and chemicals in concentrate form. The goal would be to make multiple applications during the ‘one trip’ across the area being treated. To accomplish this, as the GPS sprayer approaches coordinates identifying specific problems, or pests, water would be mixed with the appropriate fungi cide, herbicide, insecticide, wetting agent, etc. as the GIS information and GPS coordinates dictate. Dr. McCall uses the analogy of “the fountain drink dispenser” when discussing this method and thinks that’s the direction turfgrass research will take in order to make “one pass-multiple apps” possible for practical application.

As for GPS sprayers being more mainstream today, Dr. Straw has golf course superintendents telling him they have a 5-10% sav ings using their GPS sprayer. Others say they save 20%. Dr. Straw stated, “It’s possible to retrofit a sprayer with GPS equipment any where from $20K-$30K, which will pay for itself in 3 to 4 years de pending on use. Turfgrass managers that first adopted this type of technology at its inception 5-7 years ago, are now ‘dialed-in’. They know the problems with making traditional spray applications and now, they couldn’t imagine not having that GPS feature, because it benefits them so much. They have peace of mind knowing the application was made on time, with the proper amount applied, overlap minimized, and everything got treated. In addition, they have the added benefit of being able to schedule and plan daily op erations more precisely. More research is definitely needed, but if

turfgrass managers gave this option serious consideration and more testimonies were given by those already using this technology, the use of GPS sprayers and spreaders would definitely increase.”

GPS Spreaders work the same way as GPS Sprayers. Dr. Mc Call stated, “GPS Spreaders will have great use in making ap plication in site specific management zones. For example, a GPS spreader could be used on athletic fields, such as a soccer field, where additional fertilizer might be needed at the goalmouth or other areas of heavy traffic. The turfgrass manager could use the GPS spreader to deliver the fertilizer product at a set rate in just those high traffic zones.” However, Dr. McCall doesn’t believe this equipment will be precise enough to make the on and off adjust ments within 12 inches of the target like GPS Sprayers.

As for VRA applications being used with GPS Spreaders, more research will be needed for that feature to be effective in turfgrass maintenance. Interestingly, Dr. Straw has just started a 3-year US GA grant to study slow-release nitrogen application on golf fair ways using a GPS spreader with VRA technology. Similar research is what will be needed to make this equipment more mainstream, allowing PTM goals to be achieved.

Dr. Chase Straw foresees ride-on sprayers and spreaders being equipped with GPS guidance in the future to track applications and reduce waste. He said, “I would not be surprised to see even push spreaders equipped with GPS guidance for greens, with the same benefits (reduce overlaps and prevent missed ar eas). If a person is guessing where they’re making application by following tire tracks, they could have overlap of 30-40% which is extremely wasteful and potentially harmful. If you can cut it to 10 to 15% that would be ideal. However, if you can get it dialed-in closer than that, you could reduce overlap to 10%.”


Using a core aerator with GPS technology would be very straight forward to operate. The process would start by first having some type of sensor take soil compaction readings using a penetrometer to measure resistance to identify soil compaction. Other sensor readings measuring soil moisture and turf health/stress could also be useful. The sensor(s) would travel over the entire surface of any turf area, to measure compaction and provide GPS coordinates of all areas having a compaction reading meeting the criteria es tablished for aerification. A digital map of the turf area could be generated along with the square footage of the area to be aerated. As the aerator crossed any GPS coordinate identified as having compaction within the established perimeter of the turf area, the aerator would engage and start aerating. It would stop aerating once it reached the preset boundary identifying the limits of aera tion. This GPS technology could be applied to tractor mounted, tow behind or walk behind units. Any aerification method from spiking, solid tines, core tines, drill and fill, air or water injection could use GPS technology with more precision.

Another possible method for collecting soil compaction mea surements in the future, was mentioned by Dr. Chase Straw. He recounted conversations with a few people about how medical re searchers who studied sports related injuries had outfitted players with special shoes containing sensors that measured the force and stress their feet had with the surface of the playing field when exerting the pressures of the sport. During the conversation, the researchers discussed the possibility of equipping shoes with spe cial soles that could measure the hardness of the playing field. That information could possibly be correlated to soil compaction given enough research study. Another interesting idea that will be answered by the future!


It doesn’t show drought stress, but the photo above is a good example of a fairway in great condition aboveground, although below ground there is much variability as seen in different levels of soil moisture due to varying soil conditions. So the obvious question becomes – does the entire fairway need to be irrigated every irrigation event? There is a better way. The goal in collecting all this data over time, is to establish a computer model that can run algorithms to make correlations between the different factors and then calculate the turfgrass response, so irrigation runtimes can be gener ated automatically – thus creating the “predictive model”.


With all the advancements in irrigation over the last 20 years, one might wonder what could be improved. As we’ve seen, one of the biggest advancements for irrigation in recent years has been in dividual head control using valve-in-head technology controlled by cell phone, tablet, or computer. This was developed for golf courses, but sports fields are using this now as well. It is quite impressive! This is really becoming more common as more manu facturers are offering this type of head, so don’t be surprised if more affordable heads of this type are developed in the future for use outside the world of golf and sports.

There’s no doubt we’ll see even more irrigation products being developed in the future and older ones being improved. When asked his thoughts about what the future holds for irrigation, Dr. Straw thinks the next big advancement for irrigation in the future may be with artificial intelligence (AI) assisted control systems. Currently, many turfgrass managers may set an irrigation controller to certain days and runtimes based on what they think the turfgrass will need,

taking into account weather, work being performed or scheduled events. Some systems have the added feature of soil moisture sensors, rain gauges or weather stations that assist with limiting, or stopping, the operational runtimes of the system. However, Dr. Straw sees a much different picture of the future, with the goal being a predictive model that can establish runtimes for irrigation systems. The runtimes will be based on real time data being collected and fed into a comput er once a baseline of information has been established. He said, “It’s all about setting up the model, and that’s the one thing we don’t have right now. The procedure of deciding when to irrigate could turn into machine learning with artificial intelligence using algorithms taking over for the turfgrass manager. It’s not there yet, but currently that technology is being developed at places like Texas A&M.”

Turf managers today that use the valve-in-head technology may try to measure soil moisture along with visual observations to decide when to program runtimes manually. In the future, vari ous sensors will be used to map soil moisture and then classify irrigation heads based on the surrounding soil moisture of each individual head. Then run times can be scheduled for those heads based on plant available water and the soil conditions around each. All that individual testing can be done now, but separately, with the final decision being made by the turfgrass manager. Ir rigation research is working toward taking the human element out of the decision-making process and letting artificial intelligence (AI) do that for the turfgrass manager. For AI to fully automate decision making for the turfgrass manager, the process would start by building a computer model that would reflect all the conditions (factors) such as turfgrass species, soil, and the history of inputs such as weather, irrigation, and cultural practices.

The process of building a computer model to predict irrigation runtimes involves the following factors:

• Establish an initial baseline or benchmark for soil moisture, us ing a variety of soil moisture sensors such as stationary, ground mobile, or aerial.

• Establish an initial plant response index (NDVI or similar) taken at the same time as the soil moisture baseline, that could measure turf quality correlated to the established soil moisture baseline. The plant response index could be collected using a sensor mounted to a drone or mowing unit.

• The next step involves the initial work of ground truthing the soil conditions and plant responses.

• From that point in time, all future data collected on soil mois ture and plant response would be added to the computer model, providing a better understanding of how soil moisture influ ences turf quality. It’s important to note that there are a variety of sensor platforms available. Dr. David McCall doesn’t see one sensor platform (stationary, ground mobile or aerial) necessarily leading the way, but all three working together for best result.

• Building this model will give the turfgrass manager a clear pic ture of the wet and dry spots across their turf area. This would be especially true using GPS/GIS technology, which could map different soil moisture conditions.

• Historically, we know water holding capacity of the soil (wet and dry spots), will not change rapidly over time. In fact, these soil conditions aren’t going to change very much unless there is major construction. So, once you have that baseline of soil characteristics, that remains stable over time. The only other thing that will influence water holding capac ity will be rainfall or use of irrigation. Therefore, during the

A handheld soil moisture meter, HydroSense II, being used to map the soil moisture of a fairway. Each yellow dot represents the GPS coordinates where soil moisture readings were taken. Photo credit: Dr. Chase Straw, Texas A&M Photo credit: Dr. Chase Straw, Texas A&M
TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org34

model building process, all irrigation runtimes would be entered as well as weather conditions (rainfall, tempera ture, wind, humidity, etc.) as factors in building this complex model.

• Any cultural practices would also be added as factors such as mowing, fer tilizing, aerating, etc.

• The goal in collecting all this data over time is to establish a computer model that can run algorithms to make correlations between the dif ferent factors and then calculate the turfgrass response, so irrigation run times can be generated automatically – thus creating the “predictive model.” Dr. Straw stated, “It’s all about set ting up the model, and that’s the one thing we don’t have right now, but we’re working in that direction.”


The next 10 years will be extremely excit ing and possibly astonishing to witness. We may be seeing the beginning of a paradigm shift allowing the technology of machine learning and artificial intel ligence to make decisions and operate equipment for the turfgrass manager. With that said, Dr. Straw had one fi nal comment. “There was a study that discussed all the advancements (sensor technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, predictive models, etc.) as being important. However, when it came down to the final analysis, the observa tions, actions, and merits of the turf manager were just as important and should not be discounted.” Fortunately, many university and manufacturer re searchers with “innovation imagination” are listening to turfgrass managers and developing the next generation of equip ment and technology needed for the turfgrass industry to succeed in a world of growing uncertainty. The researchers are working hard to meet user demand and governmental regulations. The is sues being addressed remain roughly the same: improve product quality, increase uniformity and consistency, improve playability, reduce operational cost, pro mote eco-friendly outcomes, increase operational maneuverability, safety, and efficiency, and improve the public perception of the turfgrass industry. The advancements will be nothing short of amazing in all phases of turfgrass equipment and technology. In total, the ultimate goal of their innovations will be the creation of a better future. And that’s good for us all!


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North Carolina State University’s Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics program, under the direction of Dr. Susana Mil la-Lewis, has released Sola™ St. Augustinegrass (experi mental name XSA 11377). The grass, which has been evaluated over the past 11 years, had its much-anticipated name revealed at NC State’s 2022 Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Field Day held on August 10, before hundreds of turfgrass industry and landscape professionals.

Sola follows in the footsteps of long-standing cultivar Raleigh St. Augustinegrass from NC State, and adds several improvements including aggressive growth, shade tolerance, drought tolerance and superior sod strength in combination with turf quality. While the new line is comparable to Raleigh in terms of cold tolerance, it possesses a better pest resistance package, with better tolerance to chinch bugs and gray leaf spot.

“This is an exciting day for everyone involved in the research and development of this new St. Augustinegrass cultivar. I am hopeful both growers and consumers appreciate Sola for its many improved characteristics and overall turf quality,” Milla-Lewis said.

Sola is the second cultivar to be released from Milla-Lewis’ breeding program within the past year. Lobo™ Zoysiagrass was released in November 2021. Select NC sod producers, turfgrass research, development and marketing company Sod Solutions and the North Carolina Sod Producers Association (NC SPA) helped support the development of these grasses by teaming up to form Turf Research North Carolina (TRNC) in 2016. Growers made financial contributions over a six-year period to fund the research and development of Lobo, Sola, and other turfgrasses yet to come out of the program. All NC SPA participating growers contribut ing to the program will have exclusive access to the grasses when they are released. Sola St. Augustine will be exclusively licensed through Sod Solutions for commercial production and marketing.

“This is a monumental day for the turfgrass industry. Dr. Milla-Lewis and her team have put in years of research and hard work towards this new St. Augustinegrass cultivar. We are thrilled to be a part of this process and cannot wait to see the success of Sola in the marketplace for years to come,” said Sod Solutions President Tobey Wagner.


The objective of the breeding program was to release an improved St. Augustinegrass cultivar better than Raleigh St. Augustine.

“When the turfgrass breeding program was established in 2009, Raleigh was the only turfgrass cultivar NC State had released going back to the early 1980s. And despite it being old, it was still an impor tant commercial cultivar that is widely grown” Milla-Lewis shared.

TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org36
Pictured are Will Neisler of Oakland Plantation Turf Farm, Christian Broucqsault and Tobey Wagner of Sod Solutions, NC State Turfgrass Breeder Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis, Alfred Wooten of Quality Turf and John Williams of Oakland Planta tion Turf Farm 2022 Lake Wheeler Field Day-Sola intro
NC State University Releases ™ THE NEWEST ST. AUGUSTINEGRASS

She said that Sola is comparable to Raleigh in cold hardiness but has many characteristics in which it outperforms Raleigh, Palmetto and other St. Augustinegrass cultivars such as turf quality and density, shade tolerance, disease resistance, drought tolerance, aggressive growth and exceptional recovery.

“We set out to develop something that would beat Raleigh and it’s exciting that it outper forms it in so many different ways,” Milla-Lewis said. “As the breeder, one thing I’m most excited about is that I think this grass is going to make producers very happy because it is very aggressive to establish and regrow, and the sod quality is great.”

Milla-Lewis anticipates the southern portion of the transition zone corridor will be one of the first areas where Sola will expand. She is eager to observe if this new cultivar will replace older St. Augustinegrasses throughout these regions over time.

Milla-Lewis reflected on her first presentations to the NC SPA back in 2009 and how the sod producers kept their faith in her as a new turfgrass breeder. “For the past 12 years, through many meetings and field days, I would show the program’s progress and promise something would come out of our work. Now here we are, with two new cultivars released,” she said. “They have been so supportive and incredibly patient. I am incredibly thankful to the NC SPA growers and the TRNC.”

Up next for NC State’s Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics program will be a new centipedegrass cultivar. Promising lines are currently in the last stages of testing in on-farm trials at Mackilwean Turf Farm, Quality Turf and at the Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Field Laboratory. Following an improved centipede cultivar, Milla-Lewis an ticipates promising lines of St. Augustinegrasses, Zoysiagrasses and possibly fescues will be released from the program. But for now, the release and expansion of Sola is a top priority.

Sola St. Augustine will have limited commercial availability by late Summer 2024. For more information follow Sod Solutions on social media or visit www.sodsolutions.com. Related video: https://youtu.be/B6ht8BU3g5k

Sod Solutions has helped successfully develop and release to the market over 20 different turfgrass varieties over the past 28 years including Palmetto® and CitraBlue® St. Augustine, EMPIRE® and Innovation® Zoysia and Celebration®, Latitude 36® and NorthBridge® Bermudagrass. The company is based in the Charleston, SC area.

BASF P&SS - GA, AL, TN 38 www.basf.com

Buy Sod, Inc. 11 www.buysod.com

BWI Companies, Inc. 29 www.bwicompanies.com

Carolina Green Corp. 39 www.cgcfields.com

Coosa Valley Turf Farms 41 www.coosavalleyturffarms.com

Corbin Turf & Ornamental Supply 19 www.corbinturf.com

Crossroads Sod Farm 39 csfsod.com

GrassMasters Sod Farm 17 grassmastersindiana.com

Greene County Fertilizer Co. 35 www.greenecountyfert.com

Greenville Turf & Tractor, Inc 15 www.greenvilleturf.com

Jackson Sand 29 www.jacksonsand.com

Kesmac 37 www.brouwerkesmac.com

Litz Turf Farm 31

McCurdy Sod Farms, LLC 41 www.mccurdysodfarms.com

Mid-Atlantic STIHL 27 www.stihldealers.com

Modern Turf, Inc. 35 www.modernturf.com

North Georgia Turf Company, Inc. 31 ngturf.com

Progressive Turf Equipment Inc. 13 www.progressiveturfequip.com

Regal Chemical Company 3 www.regalchem.com

Sigma Organics, Inc. 39 www.SigmaTurf.com

Smith Turf & Irrigation 5 www.smithturf.com

Sod Solutions 23 www.sodsolutions.com

STEC Equipment 25 www.stecequipment.com

Super-Sod 7 www.supersod.com

Sur-Line Turf, Inc. 43 www.surlineturf.com

The Turf Zone 12, Back Cover theturfzone.com

The Turfgrass Group 9 www.theturfgrassgroup.com

Turf Mountain Sod, Inc. 43 www.turfmountain.com

Winstead Turf Inside Front Cover www.winsteadturffarms.com

ADVERTISER INDEX TENNESSEE TURFGRASS OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2022 Email TTA at: info@ttaonline.org38 Territory Sales Specialist for GA, AL, & TN Mobile: (470) 347-2045 • Email: michael.jones@basf.com BASF P&SS • P.O. Box 71607 • Newnan, GA 30271 Mike Jones, CGCS FEATURE
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If you’re not following all the up-to-the-minute news on Twitter, you may be missing out on some great information and opportunities.

From event updates to Job Listings to networking, Twitter is a great way to stay connected.

All photos from twitter.com




José Javier Vargas Almodóvar Research Associate II

Turf & Ornamental Weed Science

The University of Tennessee

2431 Joe Johnson Drive

252 Ellington Plant Sci. Bldg. Knoxville, TN 37996 (865) 974-7379

jvargas@utk.edu tnturfgrassweeds.org


Jim Brosnan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Turfgrass Weed Science

The University of Tennessee

2431 Joe Johnson Drive

252 Ellington Plant Sci. Bldg. Knoxville, TN 37996-4561 (865) 974-8603

jbrosnan@utk.edu tnturfgrassweeds.org


Frank Hale, Ph.D. Professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology

The University of Tennessee 5201 Marchant Drive

Nashville, TN 37211-5201 (615) 832-6802

fahale@utk.edu ag.tennessee.edu/spp

Tom Samples, Ph.D. Professor, Turfgrass Extension

The University of Tennessee 2431 Joe Johnson Drive

252 Ellington Plant Sci. Bldg. Knoxville, TN 37996-4561 (865) 974-2595

tsamples@utk.edu turf.utk.edu


John Stier, Ph.D. Associate Dean, The University of Tennessee 2621 Morgan Circle

126 Morgan Hall Knoxville, TN 37996-4561 (865) 974-7493

jstier1@utk.edu turf.utk.edu


Greg Breeden Extension Specialist, The University of Tennessee 2431 Center Drive

252 Ellington Plant Sci. Bldg. Knoxville, TN 37996-4561 (865) 974-7208

gbreeden@utk.edu tnturfgrassweeds.org


Kyley Dickson, Ph.D. Associate Director, Center for Athletic Field Safety Turfgrass Management & Physiology (865) 974-6730

kdickso1@utk.edu @DicksonTurf

Brandon Horvath, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Turfgrass Science

The University of Tennessee 252 Ellington Plant Sci. Bldg.

2431 Joe Johnson Drive Knoxville, TN 37996 (865) 974-2975

bhorvath@utk.edu turf.utk.edu


John Sorochan, Ph.D. Professor, Turfgrass Science The University of Tennessee 2431 Joe Johnson Drive

Ellington Plant Sci. Bldg. Knoxville, TN 37996-4561 (865) 974-7324

sorochan@utk.edu turf.utk.edu


Alan Windham, Ph.D. Professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology

The University of Tennessee

Marchant Drive


Nashville, TN 37211-5201


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Organizations fail to thrive when their people don’t have the skills and knowledge to perform at the highest level. As turfgrass professionals, we understand that the right environment allows plants to grow to their full potential. But what does a growth environment look like for an employee? Could it be that our team would have more success if the culture was more conducive to employee development?

Only about half of all employees globally strongly agree that they have had opportunities to learn and grow in the past year according to Gallup. Yet the ones who do work harder and more efficiently, return 9% higher customer loyalty and 10% higher profit than undeveloped employees. What’s more, employees who are given the right growth opportunities are twice as likely to spend their career with their organization.

For business leaders, the return on investment is clear. Paying for employee development will reap massive return on efficiency, profit, and retention. Setting a budget for each employee’s growth is the first step. One of the best ways to do this is by organizational level. Front line employees may be eligible for one hour per week of paid training on-the-job. Crew leaders may be given access to an online platform like GrowTheBench.com in addition to their paid training time. Mid-level managers may be eligible to attend one conference annually. Senior level leaders should perhaps have an executive coach or academic program budgeted.

Whatever budget is set, there are three keys to selecting the right employee development opportunities for each person. First, employee development must be individualized to the employee. That means it should be relevant to their role at the company with tangible outcomes in their current and future

responsibilities. But it also means that leaders must consider the motivations, strengths, and blind spots of each worker. Nothing is more exhausting than training that feels remedial, so letting each person help select their developmental plan will create the greatest buy-in from everyone. These conversations should be collaborative and encouraging.

Second, development must be intentional. The reason that most people never grow is because their progress is never discussed or encouraged. When time isn’t set aside purposefully, development simply doesn’t happen. A stagnant organization is one that has not expressly prioritized employee growth. Part of intentional developmental opportunities is having goal setting and accountability. Just like in horticulture where we would never plant a tree and then expect it to grow without frequent checkins to adjust for changing conditions, each employee needs to be encouraged and checked-in with weekly.

Finally, employee growth must be ongoing from onboarding through promotion. Growth and development are a long and slow process where consistency breeds the best outcome. Teams which maintain intentional time for growth even during busy seasons are the ones which find the greatest return. Those who only invest in themselves when convenient are often frustrated by a lack of results. When employees stop being developed, they tend to look elsewhere for work. In fact, 93% of the time that employees changed their role, they left their organization to do so. It’s clear that growth will lead to retention if it’s continuous.

No matter how you choose to develop your team, you’ll never regret the investment if you commit to consistent, intentional, and individualized development.


Dr. James




Tellico Village





Ryan Blair, CGCS

Holston Hills Country Club

Past President

Doug Ward

Belle Meade Country Club

Executive Director Melissa Martin

Tennessee Turfgrass Association


Jason Bradley

Bart Cash

Ben Dodd

Dan Johnson

Ashley Gaskin

Cal Hill

Jeff Huber

Jeff Kuhns

Bill Marbet

Bob McLean

Jason Sanderson

Mark Stovall

John Wagnon

Jeff Wyatt


Bill Blackburn

Dr. Jim Brosnan

Joe Hill

Dr. Brandon Horvath

Lynn Ray

Jeff Rumph

Dr. Tom Samples

Dr. Dennis Shepard

Dr. John Sorochan

Dr. Wes Totten

The Official Publication of the Tennessee Turfgrass Association, the Tennessee Valley Sports Field Management Association and the Tennessee Golf Course Superintendents Association Tennessee Turfgrass is the official publication of The Tennessee Turfgrass Association 400 Franklin Road Franklin, Tennessee 37069 (615) 928-7001 info@ttaonline.org www.ttaonline.org PUBLISHED BY Leading Edge Communications, LLC 206 Bridge Street Franklin, Tennessee 37064 (615) 790-3718 info@leadingedgecommunications.com EDITOR
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