Arkansas Turfgrass Association – Interview with Dr. Mike Richardson, Professor of Turfgrass Management & Physiology at the University of Arkansas
Arkansas Turgrass – Dr. Mike Richardson, Professor of Turfgrass Management & Physiology at the University of Arkansas
Turf Zone: Welcome to Episode 4 of the Arkansas Turfgrass TurfZone podcast. We are joined today by Dr. Mike Richardson, Professor of Turfgrass Management and Physiology at the University of Arkansas.
TZ: Today we want to discuss an upcoming event that you have been planning for quite some time – University of Arkansas Field Day. Before we dive into the details of the event, let’s talk about the University program’s relationship with Arkansas Turfgrass Association. What is the goal of that partnership?
Mike Richardson: Well, certainly the relationship is very important, not only for our success here at the University of Arkansas, also I think for the industry’s success. And the Arkansas Turfgrass Association certainly represents the entire turfgrass industry. So the University has a teaching, research and extension program that’s primarily housed at the Horticulture Department here in Fayetteville, but we also have some other faculty and staff in other departments that also work in the turf industry. Again, because we’re a land grant school, our mission is to train the next generation of employees for the industry, so we train students in turfgrass management to go out and fill jobs in the industry. It’s to provide technical expertise and research to help solve problems that the industry faces, whether it’s a golf course or athletic field or lawn. Then finally we serve to provide extension help, and that can come in a number of different things, from simple things like trying to help answer questions and help people solve individual problems that they might be having and also provide continuing education for people in the industry so that they stay up to date on not only new things that we’re doing at the University from a research standpoint, technology standpoint, but we’re also plugged in with other researchers and other companies and things around not only the United States, but around the world, so we try to stay abreast of new things that might be important and useful for the Arkansas Turfgrass Association.
TZ: To that end, obviously Field Day is a great resource for turfgrass managers in the area. What is the history of the turfgrass field day?
MR: Well, I’ve been at the University now for 21 years and Dr. Karcher has been here I think 18 or 19, so both of us have been here right around 20 years. The first turfgrass field day that I was able to offer when I came to Arkansas was in 2001, just before Dr. Karcher arrived. The purpose of field day is really several-fold and it differs depending on the University that’s offering it. Our field day is really a chance for us to highlight what are some of the new technologies or ideas that we may have that could be helpful for people in the industry, but it’s also just a chance to do some basic education. If there are topics or things where maybe people are hearing about a certain idea or topic, but they’re not as familiar with it, we may not necessarily be doing research on it, but we have a field day stop were we discuss that topic through some of the details of how they might apply that at their work. So again, it’s really designed to both enlighten the industry on what we’re doing and what our students are doing and again it’s an opportunity to educate the industry about new things and new ideas that they could implement back at their own jobs.
TZ: How many people normally attend and who are the attendees?
MR: The last five or six field days, we’ve generally had about 200 people attend the event, that group consists of people that represent all facets of the industry, but I would say probably here at the Arkansas field day, usually about half of our attendees are somehow involved in the lawncare industry, so that’s usually our largest group makeup of the attendees. But we also have a good-size active group that are involved in the golf industry, and also in the sports turf industry. The other thing that we have at field day is not just people that manage turf, but we also have vendors that are here that work in the industry here in Arkansas that maybe sell equipment or fertilizer or athletic field paints or whatever that are here to network with people that are in the industry, but also learn about some potentially new ideas that might help them with their business. Then we also will have, you know a group of people can be anywhere from 10 to 20 people that can come down from all over the country that we’re doing research with. So it could be a representative of a company from somewhere else that we’re doing research for and they want to come in and not only see what’s going on with their research, but see other things that we may be doing here at the University. So it’s usually a pretty diverse group, we kind of segment it out into basically their interest areas, where it’s golf athletic fields or lawncare, it’s usually a group of anywhere from 160 to I think the most we’ve ever had is about 230.
TZ: Originally, a Field Day was not scheduled for 2019. Why are we having it this year?
MR: Well, we were scheduled to have the event last year in 2018 and for most of the time that we’ve had field day here, we had been on an every other year cycle. We did go through a short period where we did it every year, but basically we offer the field day every other year. And just to give you an idea of why we do it that way is that a lot of times the research that we do may be two-year studies, so a lot of times if you do it every year, then the research doesn’t change much. But usually if we wait two years, then we’ve got new things going on, new studies initiated, so we’ve got hopefully some newer things to talk about in our program. So we were scheduled to have the event last year, late July and about 10 days before the event was scheduled to happen we had a freak storm here at the research station that damaged three key structures that are part of our research facilities. Structures that we use for doing water use and drought research. Unfortunately about half of the field day stops that we had scheduled last year were involved with those structures and because of some insurance issues and some liability issues with the structures being damaged and on the ground, we made the decision that we really just needed to cancel the event because it was going to really be a challenge to have the event with some of the problems we had. But because we cancelled it last year, we decided pretty much right away that we would schedule the event this year and then we will be back on an every other year cycle after this. So the next event will be in 2021.
TZ: Let’s get to the details – what does this year’s schedule look like?
MR: Well, typically our schedule for field day is we start usually around 7, 7:30 in the morning with registration for the event and during the registration period we also have a small trade show that we do every year. It’s an outdoor trade show, so we will have vendors that will bring in everything from a tabletop to hand out brochures about their product to tractors and mowers and bigger pieces of equipment. It’s usually a really nice time to just let everybody mingle and network a little bit. We serve a simple breakfast during the trade show events, just so people can kind of hang out and have coffee and donuts and things like that for an hour or so. We then have some brief introductions and an overview of the day, then we start with the field tours. The fields tours are about a two-and-a-half-hour segment where we break the group up into different interest areas. So we will break up into lawncare and landscape is one group, golf course management is a second group, and then the sports field managers are the third group. So those groups will vary in size, but we can break them up and then we’ve got a planned schedule of events so that each group will rotate through different stations, seven in all. So they’ll be at each station about 20 minutes. There’ll be a speaker talking about some topic, then they’ll move to the next station to basically cover that two-and-a-half-hour block. After the research tours, we have a catered lunch here on the grounds, we also have some additional time for people to visit with some of the vendors in the trade show area. Then in the afternoon we have a pesticide recertification class that’s offered for any attendees that need to their licenses recertified or even if they’re from out of state, we can usually get then some continuing education credits to attend that afternoon as well.
TZ: What are some of the topics that you will cover in the stations they rotate through?
MR: Well, there’s a lot going on this year. We’ve got first and foremost, we have some speakers that are outside of the University, and I want to talk about a couple of them first. Mr. Lee Butler from North Carolina State University, he heads ups their plant diagnostic lab. He’s also a very accomplished turfgrass pathologist and so he will be here and will be giving talks to both the golf and the lawncare/landscape group about different aspects of turfgrass pathology. From how to take good samples to how to diagnose what diseases you might have to management, cultural practices and potential control options for some of the more important diseases that those guys go up against. We’ve got one of our extension colleagues, Jason Davis, who does a lot with pesticide applicator training here in the state. He’s got some really cool techniques and technologies to demonstrate how to effectively use new technology like GPS on sprayers, how to do calibration of specialty-type equipment for applications of fertilizers or chemicals. So he’s going to be giving a couple of talks in relation to that as well.
Then after that most of the speakers are really people that are involved either as faculty, staff or as graduate students in our program. So we will have several of our graduate students that will be giving talks throughout the programs. Both Dr. Karcher’s and my graduate students will all be giving presentations. Really the last person that I want to mention is that we’ve added a new staff person in the last year. He’s a research scientist, his name is Matt Bertucci and he’s doing extension work in relation to turf. He was brand new last year when we were going to have field day, he was scheduled to be on that program, but he’s going to be giving several talks to both the golf and the landscape groups. The final comment I’ll make about the program is the sports turf group is going to be in for a real treat this year in that they’re going to be basically going down and doing a tour of Razorback athletic fields. That’s going to be primarily involved with the conversion of Razorback Stadium from synthetic turf back to natural grass, the process that’s currently in place. So Pat Berger will primarily lead that tour, he will go through the whole process of how they renovated Razorback Stadium back to natural grass.
TZ: Is there anything else new with the program or activities that we should be on the lookout for?
MR: One of the things that we’ve always tried to do with the turfgrass field day is to have equipment demonstrations of what we think are new and innovative pieces of equipment that might be useful for members of our industry. In the past, we’ve tried to package that in with some of the tours, but we’ve found that it’s oftentimes hard for the company or the company representative to really talk about some of the details of the equipment and then also be able to demonstrate the equipment in a 20 minute time slot. So what we’re going to do this year that’s going to be a little different is that as soon as people start finishing up their lunch, around 12:15 or so, we’re going to have several different equipment vendors in an area very close to where we’re going to be serving lunch, that will have equipment out and so the attendees will basically be able to get up from their lunch and go out and visit with the vendors and then they’re going to be demonstrating that equipment on the turf onsite there. We’re hoping that will give us an opportunity to actually demonstrate more equipment than we’ve ever done in the past, and also give the attendees an opportunity to kind of pick and choose the things that they would be most interested in from an equipment standpoint. So one of the things that I think will be interesting is that I know we’re going to have one group that’s going to be there demonstrating small autonomous mowers, so robotic mowers, like your Roomba that you might have in your house, but now it’s out in your yard cutting grass instead of vacuuming your living room.
TZ: You mentioned pesticide credits and CEUs, what else should we know about those?
MR: In order for someone to get recertification for their Arkansas State Plant Board, they need to attend the entire event, which will be the morning and afternoon sessions. The afternoon session will be specifically geared toward pesticide recertification, but just want to make sure that people not only from the state of Arkansas, but others that might be attending, are aware that if you’re a golf course superintendent and you’re a member of the GCSAA, the program will also give you continuing education credits for GCSAA, which is always important for those guys and gals. And then finally if we do have those that come in from Missouri or Oklahoma or surrounding states, which we often do, we also get recertification CEUs and credit for those attendees as well. We will certainly make that announcement and let people know about that when they’re registering, if they have a need for that, we will work to make sure that they get credited for attending the event.
TZ: Thank you, Mike, for your work in planning and organizing what is sure to be an exciting and informative event.
We hope to see you all at Field Day at the University of Arkansas on July 24th. For more details, follow Dr. Richardson on Twitter @Arkansasturf or email him at email@example.com . You can also find more information in the summer issue of Arkansas Turfgrass magazine.
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From Arkansas Turfgrass – Summer 2019
Save the Date for University of Arkansas Field Day
July 24, 2019
By Mike Richardson, firstname.lastname@example.org, @Arkansasturf and Doug Karcher, email@example.com, @uarkturf
Many of you are aware that the University of Arkansas Turfgrass Field Day, which was scheduled for July 2018, was cancelled because of a freak storm at our facility that destroyed several key structures associated with our program. Normally, we are on an every other year schedule, but have decided to host Field Day in 2019 due to last year’s cancellation.
This year’s event will be held at the UofA Turfgrass Research Center in Fayetteville on July 24, 2019. As in the past, we will have research and education tours that are focused on either golf course management, lawn and landscape, or sports fields. A number of the projects and demonstrations that were scheduled for last year will be back on the schedule this year, but we will have some changes due to either research projects finishing last year or new projects starting this year.
On the golf side, we will feature research regarding cover strategies such as creating air gaps under covers for ultradwarf winter protection, the use of drones on a golf course, the latest in wetting agent research, fungicide programs for golf course turf and native plants that can be used in natural areas on the golf course, and several other topics of interest.
The sports turf group will have a great opportunity to visit Razorback Stadium and learn about the conversion of the field back to natural grass. The field will be planted to Tahoma 31 and Pat Berger (Director of Sports Turf Operations) will provide insight and details of the project and the progress towards the first game. In addition, there will be demonstrations of the Trimax mowing system and fraise mowers for athletic field maintenance.
The lawn care group will get to learn about herbicide programs for annual grass control, best management practices for using fungicides and insecticides, how plant growth regulators can fit into your program, and the latest research on water use of cool-season lawns. Each program will be packed with great information and it is always our goal for every attendee to walk away with some ideas that can help manage their turf more effectively.
One thing that we are going to do differently this year is offer some short, specialized “afternoon programs” for those that may be interested in seeing some additional research or demonstrations of some unique, new equipment. Although these are still under development, there will likely be a “weed walk” tour with Drs. Boyd and Bertucci, equipment demonstrations and some specialized sports field management content for high school coaches who attend.
As we have done in the past, participation in this event will serve as pesticide recertification for the Arkansas State Plant Board and GCSAA education credits will also be awarded. Pesticide CEUs for surrounding states are also available if attendees need those. We will start the day with a trade show and breakfast at 7:30 am, do field tours from 9:00–11:30 am, and then enjoy a delicious, catered lunch. Afternoon sessions, including classes required for pesticide recertification credit, will commence right after lunch.
This year, our guest speaker will be Mr. Lee Butler from North Carolina State University. Lee runs the turfgrass disease diagnostic lab at NCSU and is also a prolific researcher in the area of turf disease control. He will be giving several talks during the day on disease diagnostics and fungicide programming and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
If you have any questions about the field day, do not hesitate to contact us!! If you are not currently on our listserve account, please email Doug Karcher and he can get you added. As field day gets closer, that will be our primary means of communicating all the details. We will also be communicating regularly via Twitter, so follow either of us if you would prefer to get information from that source. We hope to see you in Fayetteville!!READ THE ISSUE