Turf Trends for Changing Times – 2017

North Carolina State University’s
Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education
Second Annual Research Symposium

December 14th 2017

Supported by:


7:30 – 8:15 Registration
8:15 – 8:30 Opening Remarks

Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis, Associate Professor, Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics

Dr. Richard Linton, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, NCSU

Dr. Richard Rees, R&D Fellow, Bayer Environmental Sciences


8:30 – 9:10 Dr. Bob Harriman, Vice President, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company 

“Developing the Next Generation of Enhanced Turfgrasses”

Turfgrasses play an important role in maintaining a healthy environment and enriching our lives.  Not only does turf provide an aesthetically pleasing landscape feature or a functional surface for sporting events, turfgrass helps reduce soil erosion and agricultural runoff, and it absorbs carbon dioxide and ozone while releasing life-sustaining oxygen.  Turfgrasses trap an estimated 12 million tons of dust each year and an average lawn has the cooling effect of about 10 tons of air conditioning (Beard and Green, 1994). While advances in breeding and cultural practices are continuously increasing the positive environmental impact of turf, biotechnology has the potential to dramatically enhance our ability to maintain a healthy turfgrass stand with even fewer inputs.  Biotechnology can provide breeders with the means to help solve turfgrass management problems that have not, and probably will not, be solved by conventional breeding.  Some improved features and benefits potentially available through biotechnology include: herbicide resistance for weed control with an environmentally benign herbicide; reduced vertical growth to decrease the frequency of mowing; broad-spectrum disease tolerance to reduce the need for fungicides; improved heat or cold hardiness to decrease loss of turf due to winter or summer stress; increased drought tolerance or water use efficiency to reduce our dependence on potable water sources. The Scotts Company will be celebrating its 150th anniversary next year.  During that time, Scotts has led many innovations in breeding, seed production and turfgrass maintenance.  We are excited to be adding another innovation to that legacy with our Enhanced Turfgrass Quality (ETQ) turfgrasses.  Our ETQ products should deliver superior quality while requiring fewer inputs such as mowing, fertilization and herbicides.  The presentation will share some of the key milestones of our current products and our vision for developing next generation enhanced turfgrasses.


9:10 – 9:50 Dr. Renee Keese, Biology Project Leader (R&D), BASF Corporation

“Plant Protection Products – What Does the Future Hold?”

The future of plant protection products is dependent on current screening processes.  Generally chemical companies use broad screening methodologies to look for that next blockbuster active ingredient.  A brief description of screening techniques will be provided. Challenges which will continue to slow the launch of new products in the market include legislative and regulatory issues, consumer attitudes, global markets and resources.  The chemical manufacturing industry has a responsibility to develop products which are thoroughly tested and have minimal environmental and human health impacts, and this takes time and costs money. Technologies will also impact development and use of new chemistries.  Precision agriculture, various imaging such as hyperspectral imagery, and use of drones, will improve application techniques and potentially increase accuracy of applications.  Water usage will continue to be a critical issue for turfgrass managers as well as other agricultural uses – moisture meters and any application method/equipment which minimizes water loss will continue to be important.  Examples will be shown where drones and imagery are helping BASF and golf course superintendents grow better turf. Environmental impacts will always be important to BASF and other chemical companies.  BASF launched a biodiversity initiative in 2015 called Living Acres, which is focused on helping to increase the monarch butterfly population through establishing milkweed in non-crop areas.  The Lonnie Poole Golf Course partnered with BASF in planting approximately 750 milkweed plants to provide food and habitat for monarch reproduction. Chemical companies will continue to look for ways to demonstrate stewardship of the environment.  The future is about more than just chemistry, and partnerships will be a critical tool in developing value-added products with environmental benefits.


9:50 – 10:30 Dr. Mark Schmidt, Manager Global University Relations, John Deere

“Defining a Purpose and Adapting a Plan: Enabling a Sustainable Future for the Turfgrass and Managed Landscape Industry”

Turfgrass is a core component of the managed landscape. Among individual sites and a collective industry, turfgrass and managed landscapes serve an important societal purpose in contributing economic, environmental, and social value. Yet, this value is often overlooked, undervalued, and under pressure from challenges and debate over the use of inputs and supporting management practices. As a result, the turfgrass and landscape industry have developed and adapted important changes and innovations to the design, construction, and management of turfgrass areas and managed landscapes. These include advances in precision management, plant genetics, sustainable design and management, and the incorporation of landscape performance and valuation methods, among other factors. Understanding current and future industry pressures and means to adapt to these pressures will be critical to creating a sustainable industry future rooted in value. To achieve a sustainable future, the turfgrass and managed landscape industry must continue to define and reinforce its purpose while also adapting a plan to achieve that purpose. This presentation will examine the turfgrass and landscape industry through this lens and explore lessons from adjacencies to guide and enable a sustainable future.


10:30 – 10:50 Coffee Break / Poster viewing
10:50 – 11:50 NCSU Centere Updates Session I :

  • Dr. Tom Rufty, Distinguished Professor (Environmental Plant Biology), Co-Director, Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research & Education, NCSU

Drought Tolerance in Turfgrasses: Complexity, Challenges, and Progress

Unpredictable rainfall, rising temperatures, and consumption by increasing urban populations often are limiting the water available for managing and sustaining turfgrasses. In this presentation, the reasons for slow advancements in drought tolerance of turfgrasses will be explained. The difficulties stem from basic mechanisms imbedded in the physiology of plants and water loss rates being dictated by unmanageable vapor pressure deficits. Research results will be used to show the basis for recent progress in lowering transpiration using ‘plant health’ chemistry. The hurdles that must be overcome for further advances will be discussed.


  • Dr. David Shew, Phillip Morris Professor (Plant Pathology), NCSU

“Seasonal dynamics and fungicide sensitivity of organisms causing brown patch of tall fescue”

Brown patch, caused by multiple species of Rhizoctonia and Rhizoctonia-like fungi, is the most severe summer disease of tall fescue in home lawns across the southeastern US. Home lawns were surveyed in central North Carolina from 2013-2015 to determine the organisms present during typical epidemics of brown patch in tall fescue. Isolates of Rhizoctonia and Rhizoctonia-like fungi were obtained by sampling 147 locations in July 2013 and May and July 2014. In addition, 11 sites were sampled once a week for 12 consecutive weeks from late May to the end of July 2015. All isolates were identified to species and anastomosis group with nuc rDNA ITS sequence analysis. Isolations from brown patch lesions in May 2014 predominately yielded Ceratobasidium cereale (77% of the organisms recovered), whereas the organisms recovered in July 2013 and 2014 were R. solani AG 2-2-IIIB (44%), R. solani AG 1-1B (37%), and R. zeae (14%). In 2015, Ceratobasidium cereale was isolated from all 11 locations in May, but was replaced by Rhizoctoniaspecies in June and July. Sensitivity of the May 2014 isolates to multiple concentrations of the fungicides azoxystrobin, flutolanil, fluxapyroxad, and propiconazole was compared to sensitivity of isolates collected in 2003, to determine whether multiple years of exposure to fungicides applied for brown patch control had altered fungicide sensitivity. Historic isolates of R. solani, which had never been exposed to fungicide applications for brown patch control, were also included for comparison. Mean EC50 values varied across fungicides and species, but no resistance was observed, and there was no apparent shift in sensitivity over the years. An additional 94 isolates from 2015 were screened against azoxystrobin, flutolanil, fluxapyroxad, and propiconazole, and fungicide insensitivity was not observed.


  • Dr. Fred Yelverton, Professor and Extension Specialist (Weed Management), Co-Director, Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research & Education, NCSU

Bioremediation of Herbicide Contaminated Water

Environmental issues with pesticides in turfgrass systems have changed focus over the years.   Until the last 10 years or so, downward movement of pesticides through the soil profile was an emphasis of environmental issues and studies.  However, research has shown that organic layers in turfgrasses slow, or even stop downward leaching of pesticides.  In addition, pesticides, and in particular herbicides, that have been introduced over the last decade or so, are applied at very low rates and typically have shorter soil half-lifes.  These two factors (organic matter and low use rates) have resulted in a very minimum hazard of pesticides reaching groundwater in turfgrass systems.  In the last 10 years, new hazards with pesticides have emerged.  Because new herbicides are very active at low rates (often grams per hectare), herbicide residues in turfgrass clippings are an issue.  CENTERE-funded research has shown that several currently used herbicides can remain in turfgass clippings and, if clippings are moved to other sites, can cause damage to desirable plants.  For instance, if a lawn is treated with certain herbicides, removal of clippings to a vegetable garden can cause significant damage to desirable plants.  Unfortunately, composting of turfgrass clippings does not eliminate herbicide residues in clippings.  This research has shown that best management practices include returning clippings to the turf area and not removing clippings.  Another area of CENTERE-funded research has focused on removal of pesticide residues in water by various emerged aquatic plants.  Research has shown that 2,4-D and azoxystrobin residues in water can be removed (in excess of 90-95%) by utilizing certain desirable plants in water.  These results show that bioremediation of pesticide contaminated water is obtainable but requires knowledge of pesticides and aquatic plants that are tolerant to the pesticides in water.


11:50 – 12:15 Panel Discussion 
12:15 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 2:30 NCSU Centere Updates Session II :

  • Wendell Hutchens, PhD student, Turf Pathology & Pesticide Fate and Behavior

“Effect of Various Irrigation Amounts on Fungicide Movement and Efficacy”

Soilborne plant pathogens are difficult to control in turfgrass systems due to the low solubility of many fungicides and their high affinity to bind to organic matter. The most effective ways to move fungicides into the root system is through the use of soil surfactants, high spray volumes, and post-application irrigation.  The effect of post-application irrigation on the movement of fungicides has not been well characterized.  Experiment 1 was conducted to determine how various post-application irrigation amounts (0, 0.3175, 0.635, 1.27, and 2.54 cm) both with and without the use of the soil surfactant polyoxyalkylene polymers (25.47 L ha-1) affected myclobutanil movement.  In support of the research above, a growth chamber experiment (Experiment 2) was conducted to determine the influence of post-application irrigation amounts on efficacy of propiconazole for summer patch (Magnaporthe poae) of ‘Penn A-4’ creeping bentgrass.  In Experiment 1, regardless of irrigation treatment, at least 76.5% of the recovered fungicide remained in the top 5.08 cm of soil when applied without a soil surfactant.  The only treatments to have average significant (>5%) fungicide residues below 5.08 cm were 1.27 and 2.54 cm of irrigation.  The most fungicide movement in Experiment 1 was with 2.54 cm of irrigation coupled with the soil surfactant.  This combination allowed for up to 5.7% of the myclobutanil to reach a 10.16-12.7 cm depth. The other treatments reached marginally deeper depths in conjunction with a soil surfactant compared to the treatments without the soil surfactant.   Experiment 2 resulted in increased turf quality and root length with the 0.635 cm irrigation amount compared to the other three treatments.  These data display the importance of post-application irrigation when applying fungicides in turfgrass systems to control soilborne pathogens.


  • Dr. Xingwang Yu, post-doctoral researcher, Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics

Molecular breeding to improve drought tolerance in St. Augustinegrass

Molecular-based tools, such as marker-assisted selection, provide turf breeders with the opportunity to more efficiently incorporate high value traits into breeding populations.   St. Augustinegrass [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze] is a warm-season grass species commonly utilized as turf in the southeastern US, but with comparable less drought tolerance than other species. In order to determine the genetic basis of drought tolerance in St. Augustinegrass, advanced high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies were used to identify SNP markers in a pseudo-F2 mapping population of ‘Raleigh’ x ‘Seville’. A high-density genetic map of St. Augustinegrass containing 2,956 markers spread on nine linkage groups, with total length of 1244.25 cM was constructed. Meanwhile, drought tolerance of this mapping population was evaluated both under field and greenhouse conditions. Evaluated traits included root length and dry weight, relative water content in leaves, chlorophyII content and photosynthetic efficiency, leaf wilting and firing under drought conditions as well as surviving green tissue after recovery. Significant variation was observed in the population. A total of 24 putative QTL associated with these traits were identified. Bioinformatics analysis revealed potential genes located in these QTL regions were involved in drought response in diverse pathways. The QTL regions and associated molecular markers identified in this study could be used to improve drought tolerance in St. Augustinegrass.


  • Drew Pinnix, PhD student, Turfgrass Management

Determining Water Use Requirements of North Carolina Turfgrasses

Turfgrass serves a vital role in the environment, especially within urban, residential, and commercial properties. Like all landscape vegetation, turfgrasses require water for growth and survival. During times of drought, water can be supplied through irrigation in order for turfgrasses to maintain functionality. The amount water supplied through irrigation not only has an impact on turfgrass performance, but also can impact valuable water reserves. Therefore, turfgrass managers must be accurate in the amount of water that is supplied through irrigation to maximize turfgrass water-use efficiency. This presentation will highlight methodology used to refine current North Carolina turfgrass irrigation recommendations. Net irrigation requirements were estimated for eleven locations across North Carolina for both cool- and warm-season grasses. Irrigation estimates were based on historical weather data dating back at least twelve years and as far back as thirty years, depending on data availability at each location. Historical weather data was subjected to the ASCE-EWRI standardized reference evapotranspiration equation to produce daily turfgrass evapotranspiration totals. A soil-water balance, which took into consideration variation in soil type, rooting depth, and type of grass, was used to estimate net irrigation requirements for each location. Other research presented will include an in-depth comparison of water use rates of a commonly used cool-season turfgrass and a newly released warm-season turfgrass from the time of planting throughout the growing season.


  • Dr. Terri Billeisen, Extension Associate, Turfgrass Entomology

Changing Turfgrass Pest Dynamics in the Southeast

Turfgrass managers today are faced with new challenges controlling insects, in part due to the evolution of available insecticide products. Increasingly target-specific chemistries are not only more selective by species but can also be intended for a particular life stage. Our approach to pest management has changed as pesticides now must be applied at very precise times to control specific pests. As a result of this focused approach, we have observed both modifications in insect timing and appearance. Calendar date-based pesticide applications can sometimes select for insects emerging on or around that date. When environmental conditions are favorable for insect activity at a different time, the traditional calendar date approach will not work. We have also observed the emergence of new insects, some of which not traditionally considered pests of turfgrass. Selective insecticide applications may not be effective against insects present in the environment historically suppressed by broad-spectrum products. As a result, we are dealing with insect issues with which we have never had to address. These pests, while not devastating in nature, become a significant problem because we do not have adequate research needed to develop management programs. Currently, our response is to immediately investigate the biology and behavior of these insects as they emerge and evaluate viable pesticides for control as much as our resources allow. For turfgrass managers, it is important to recognize the importance of monitoring for insects. With an effective monitoring program, it is possible to anticipate an outbreak before it occurs, even if there is a shift in timing. Monitoring can also help identify a “new” insect pest so managers can investigate options for control before it becomes a major issue.


2:30 – 3:30 Graduate Student Poster Competition / Coffee Break
3:30 – 3:45 Closing Remarks