sealPurdue News


October 1995

Turf's up at Purdue with a new grass research center

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- One of the fastest-growing areas of ag has nothing to do with corn or soybeans -- it's turf. Green grass. The green glue of suburbia.

This growth has brought about a demand for information based on scientific research about the best ways to grow grass and about the environmental impact of all of that botanical carpet.

To respond to the questions, Purdue University has created a Turfgrass Research and Diagnostic Center, and it plans to build a first-of-its-kind research facility to assist the scientists. The new facility will be part of a $6.5 million renovation of the Purdue golf complex.

Construction of the research facility, which will be located on a former dairy farm that is adjacent to the current North golf course, is planned to begin in spring 1996. The center is co-directed by Clark Throssell, associate professor of agronomy, and Zac Reicher, turfgrass specialist for the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service.

"The new center will have several functions," Throssell says. "It will be a research laboratory, and an education center for students. It will have facilities where we can offer continuing education courses on turf management and pesticide application for people in the golf turf and lawn care industries."

Pete Dye, a world-famous golf course architect who has offered to redesign the Purdue North golf course, supports the turfgrass research center: "There's been a lot of misinformation about golf courses and their negative impact on the environment, even though golf courses have been a forerunner in being environmentally sensitive," he says. "This is an opportunity for Purdue to be a leader in further research that shows how golf courses are environmentally sensitive and can actually be a total enhancement to the environment."

The Purdue center will be the first comprehensive turfgrass research facility in the nation and the second in the nation -- and the first outside the Sunbelt -- to feature outdoor research and diagnostic plots of turf. The outdoor plots will allow researchers to investigate ways to manage turf problems, to conduct environmental research on the breakdown of turf chemicals, and to look for ways to apply environmentally friendly agronomic techniques such as integrated pest management or biological pest control to lawns and turf.

The research plots also will be a teaching aid. "The great thing is that after they hear the lecture in the classroom, students can step right out the door and do hands-on work on the research plots," Throssell says. "We will create problems in the turf plots so that we can show people what the misapplication of chemicals or various plant diseases look like. This will greatly increase the students' comprehension of what we are teaching."

The new facility also will allow more students to enroll in turf management classes. Turf management, a major degree program in the Department of Agronomy, has one of the best placement rates in the university. Most graduates go to work as golf course superintendents.

In addition to the outdoor research plots, the turf researchers also plan to use the two Purdue golf courses as living laboratories.

"One of the holes on the new North golf course will be set up so that it has two fairways that use a single set of tees and a single green," says Throssell. "That will allow us to shut down one of the fairways at certain times so that researchers or students can get out there to examine the results of their research.

"These research plots won't be artificial. People will be walking on it, taking divots from it. This type of use places a huge stress on turf plants, and it's something that is nearly impossible to recreate in a laboratory setting."

Morgan Burke, Purdue athletic director, says: "The location and expansion of the turf research program into a center adjacent to the golf course will strengthen the growing partnership between athletics and academics. While it is not unusual for a university to have a championship golf course, it is unusual for such a course to incorporate academic turf research."

The planned golf course upgrade includes Dye's redesign of Purdue's North course and improvements to the 18-hole South course. Private support is being sought to fund both the course redesign and the turf center.

Sources: Clark Throssell, (765) 494-4785; Internet,
Zac Reicher, (765) 494-9737; Internet,
Morgan Burke, (765) 494-3189; home, (765) 497-9232

Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809; home, (765) 463-4355; Internet,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Color prints of an architect's rendering of the planned turfgrass research center and of the center's co-directors are available from Purdue News Service at (765) 494-2096.

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