Record crowd attends 2016 turf conference

Randy LaBauve, Strahan, Ronald E.

Ben Wherley, assistant professor of turfgrass ecology at Texas A&M University, discusses growth of shade turf at the 2016 Louisiana Turfgrass Association Conference on Jan. 7 at Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Randy LaBauve, LSU AgCenter)

Brit Breland, with RCI Landscape, talks with another attendee at the 2016 Louisiana Turfgrass Association Conference on Jan. 7 at Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Randy LaBauve, LSU AgCenter)

News Release Distributed 01/12/16

BATON ROUGE, La. – Tiger Stadium is usually packed for Saturday night football games. But on Jan. 7, the club level of the stadium was filled with turfgrass professionals at the annual 2016 Louisiana Turfgrass Association conference.

More than 230 people ranging from landscapers to golf course and football field managers attended the event.

“It was easily a record crowd, and the participants were impressed at the south stadium view overlooking the football field and the quality of speakers and vendors,” said Ron Strahan, LSU AgCenter turf specialist and a coordinator of the event.

“It’s designed to bring in turfgrass professionals to look for ways to improve the industry through research and extension,” he said.

The event featured expert speakers and offered attendees credit toward pesticide recertification with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. It also provided an opportunity for continuing education units with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Ben Wherley, assistant professor of turfgrass ecology at Texas A&M University, offered the latest scientific research in addressing a top dilemma with turfgrass – managing growth in the shade.

Wherley asked the audience if they had ever heard the term DLI before, and no one had.

“One of the things researchers are looking at in terms of shade is something called DLI, or daily light integral,” Wherley said. “DLI is a 24-hour measurement of light in a given location. From a biological standpoint, that’s what’s most important.”

Key research in the future will relate to establishing the minimum DLI for an area, he said. Inexpensive DLI meters are now available to help industry professionals with shade grass management.

“Place them in any location, turn them on, and let them run 24 hours,” he said. The data will show which grass varieties require which DLI.

Raj Singh, director of the LSU AgCenter Plant Diagnostic Center, talked about ways to manage St. Augustine grass to minimize common damage from fungal diseases like large patch, take-all and gray leaf spot.

Along with proper identification of the disease, Singh encouraged attendees to be wary of overdoing care on landscapes.

“The rate of application is very important. If your grass is looking a little yellow, that doesn’t mean you need to add another dose of nitrogen to it,” he said.

“Irrigation is the most important factor when we talk about disease management,” Singh said. He recommends irrigating lawns in the early morning because watering in the evening causes more pathogens to grow.

Without following proper management practices for turfs and lawns, fungicides are not very effective, ultimately costing professionals more time and money, Singh said.

Kevin Vidrine, owner of Scotts Lawn Service in Scott, Louisiana, was attending his eighth conference. This marked the first year he brought all his employees to the event.

“I learned some things about fungicides we didn’t know,” Vidrine said.

Half of Vidrine’s employees are currently licensed to apply chemicals, but his goal is to have them all certified.

“Every year there’s good information, and it’s a great place to network with other professionals,” Vidrine said. “What we receive here helps us manage customer expectations.”

A major point of emphasis from many of the speakers was minimizing chemical inputs on landscapes to prevent negative environmental impacts.

Wherley recommends “reconsidering the amounts of turf nutrients to apply when evaluating soil tests” as part of a nutrient management program that is sensitive to environmental concerns.

“Turf is the largest irrigated crop in the United States,” Wherley said. “There’s more irrigated turf than there is corn in the United States. We are visible and people see us out there fertilizing lawns.”

Conference attendee Kyle Huffstickler, landscape superintendent for East Baton Rouge Parish, said his department is responsible for tree management, plantings and maintaining grass along Interstates and highways.

“There’s a lot of shifting regulation,” Huffstickler said. “This conference made it clear we’re dealing with the public. We’re under scrutiny.”

“I realize it is a very sensitive issue with the environment,” he said. “There’s so much that can go wrong, so we need to be prepared.”

Jeff Beasley, with the LSU AgCenter School of Plant Environmental and Soil Sciences, presented an overview of research projects on growth of zoysia and Bermuda grass varieties, research on slow-release fertilizers and the need for voluntarily developing best management practices.

Beasley implored Louisiana sod producers to contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about providing sod for upcoming installation projects on levees.

Kim Pope Brown, LSU AgCenter pesticides safety education coordinator, reported on her research analyzing levels of atrazine in waterways and provided some pesticide education, reflecting changes in regulations, particularly for sod farmers.

Allen Owings, resident director at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station, introduced participants to top-performing flowers, shrubs and trees for commercial and residential landscapes.

Brooke Inzerella, LTA president, provided a compelling talk about how he shifted from the profession of financial investment to start a landscape company in Lafayette that has become successful.

“The turf industry is an important component of the multimillion dollar green industry,” Strahan said. “We work very closely with lawn and turf professionals. It’s important that we help train and teach them.”

Randy LaBauve

1/13/2016 3:16:07 AM
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