Research Overview

About the University of Arkansas turfgrass research program.

Turfgrass evaluation
Ball roll distance is evaluated with a "stimpmeter" on a research putting green at the U of A Horticulture Field Laboratory.

The mission of the Turfgrass Research program at the University of Arkansas is to generate techniques to improve turfgrass production and management for golf courses, sports fields, and commercial and residential lawns in the state of Arkansas and beyond. The research facilities consist of ten acres of irrigated turf, including ~36,000 ft2 of putting greens, at the University of Arkansas Agriculture Research Center in Fayetteville, and modern greenhouse and growth chambers located on campus in the Alternative Pest Control Research Center. The unique geographical location of the facilities allows for studies on both warm-season (bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, St. Augustinegrass, centipedegrass) and cool-season (tall fescue, fine fescues, Kentucky bluegrasss, perennial ryegrass, and creeping bentgrass) turfgrass species. The following paragraphs summarize specific turf research projects currently receiving focus in the program.

Cultivar evaluations
Cultivar evaluation
Several varieties of zoysiagrass, bermudagrass, and tall fescue turf are evaluated as part of the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program.

The University of Arkansas is an active participant in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program, a national program developed to identify environmentally-sound turfgrass varieties that are well-adapted to various regions of the U.S. and Canada. Several varieties of bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, fine-fescue, and creeping bentgrass have been evaluated at the University of Arkansas for characteristics such as overall turf quality, color, density, resistance to diseases and insects, tolerance to heat, cold, and drought. Results from these studies are available to residents of Arkansas for making informed decisions when selecting turfgrass varieties and can be found at www.ntep.org.

Improving turf evaluations through digital image analysis

Techniques have been developed at the University of Arkansas to precisely evaluate turfgrass cover and color from the use digital images and specialized software. Digital images of turf are initially scanned by the software for pixels representing turfgrass. Turfgrass pixels are then either compared to the remaining number of pixels in the image to estimate percent cover, or evaluated for hue, saturation, and brightness to estimate turf color. This technology, which is a significant improvement over traditional evaluations consisting of subjective ratings, has been adopted by several other university research programs abroad. This research was financially supported by the O.J. Noer Foundation and The Toro Company. In addition, the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program is funding additional research at the University of Arkansas for using digital image analysis techniques to evaluate turf characteristics such as density and uniformity, so that when combined with percent cover and turf color, an objective measure of turf quality may be attainable.

Construction of sports turf rootzones

Experiments are underway with objectives to improve the construction techniques of sand-based rootzones for intensively used turf such as golf course putting greens and sports fields. The results from routine particle size analysis are being used to predict physical properties of the rootzone such as bulk density, porosity, water retention, and drainage rate. In addition, inorganic and organic rootzone amendments are being evaluated for their effects on water retention, porosity, and drainage. These studies are funded in part by a grant from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Evaluating cultivation techniques for putting greens

The largest putting green in the state of Arkansas is the perfect site to evaluate several cultivation methods for reducing thatch and improving the oxygen status of the rootzone. Several types of aggressive vertical mowing and traditional core cultivation using various tine diameters and spacings are being evaluated for their effects on organic matter removal and re-accumulation, duration required for full turf recovery, golf ball roll characteristics, and overall turf quality.

Improving the recovery of divots through cultural practices
Divot Recovery
Divot recovery is closely monitored on several creeping bentgrass varieties.

A common problem of golf course superintendents are divots on their tees and fairways, created by the hackers as well as the professional golfers. Several studies are underway at the University of Arkansas to examine the effects of turfgrass variety, mowing height, fertility, sunlight exposure, growth regulators, and divot-filling methods on the recovery of divots. These studies are funded by a grant from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Utilizing seeded bermudagrasses and zoysiagrasses

Genetic advances have resulted in the development of improved seeded cultivars of both bermudagrass and zoysiagrass. Research at the University of Arkansas is focused on developing techniques to establish and manage these seeded grasses, including establishment weed-control, cultural practices that enhance establishment, and factors that influence winter survival. In addition, studies at golf courses and sports fields are being conducted to determine the best ways to incorporate these grasses into real-world situations. Finally, studies are underway to determine methods of sod production using a seeded bermudagrass as the planting stock. This research has been funded by numerous organizations, including the U.S. Golf Association, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and the Turfgrass Producers International.

Moss control on putting greens
Turf Moss
Good moss control is present on the bottom-center plot in this image.

Moss is becoming a serious problem on golf putting greens in Arkansas and around the world. We are conducting on-site research at area golf courses, investigating the species of mosses that are found on local courses as well as methods to control moss in a creeping bentgrass putting green.

Pest management of turfgrasses

Turfgrasses are weakened by a range of pests, including insects, fungal diseases, and weeds. A wide range of studies are conducted annually to control or manage the most severe pests of golf courses, sports fields, sod farms, and lawns. Some of the diseases that are being studied at the University of Arkansas include brown patch of tall fescue, spring dead spot of bermudagrass, and dollar spot and anthracnose of creeping bentgrass putting greens. Dr. John Boyd of the UofA Cooperative Extension Service annually conducts numerous studies on the many weeds that invade turfgrasses. Insect pests such as the Japanese beetle, zoysiagrass mite, cutworms, sod webworms, and billbugs are also studied by the UofA turfgrass research team.