I've always been baffled by the human condition that causes people to take one side or position, non-negotiable, unbudging. I am especially baffled by a stubbornness of opinion so great that it causes someone to crash, all the while thinking they are "on the right side", their only side. I'm reminded of a story I heard once where an airplane pilot who was "not a GPS guy" flew a plane equipped with GPS mapping into the side of a mountain. He spent three days crawling with two broken legs before he was found. When investigators asked why he didn't use all the equipment available to him, he still maintained his "not a GPS guy" status. Stupid.
Although not as physically consequential, I have seen plenty of Turfheads fly their planes into the mountain or the lake or never even get off the ground because they took a side and wouldn't budge from it. So I asked a few of them lately what had put them to that decision point and why. The answers were fascinating.
I have seen plenty of Turfheads fly their planes into the mountain or the lake or never even get off the ground because they took a side and wouldn't budge from it...
"I only use liquids on greens", proclaimed one super. "I'm done with granulars". So we talked this one through and the facts came out that at a previous job, this person couldn't get employees to master the concept of using a rotary spreader. Tried and tried and just couldn't make it happen. Factor number two was that some of that granular was ending up in the baskets the next morning. Makes sense, right? But new job, new place and this place needs some materials applied with spreaders. I am the one delivering the news. Paid to do so. And the conversation with me is something like saying, "look, I know you love the trombone, but the music you have to play here means you need a clarinet". It seemed an absurd conversation to me, but we finally sorted it out.
"I don't do deep and infrequent irrigation like you do, Dave", said one super on the phone. Somehow my writings on irrigation of sand-based greens in arid environments and the benefits of evaporative cooling had already reached them. So we had a discussion about why swamp coolers work and how, in that person's particular area no one has a swamp cooler because they don't work. And I agreed with Soaked Super that irrigation is the least of the worries. But that the occasional flush could be quite the thing when combined with some venting, etc. Again, it took some convincing but the results spoke for themselves.
So is this a conditioned thing? Our whole world seems to make these choices. Coke vs Pepsi. Nike vs. Adidas. Toyota vs. Honda. And in our business, Toro vs. Rain Bird, etc? Yes. An effective technique of marketing and advertising is to get people to choose a side. A call to action to make a decision. Even when that decision is apples vs. oranges, after all, it's fruit. On the other hand, we are often led by advertising simply not to choose a certain side. Eggs, once made into villains by other marketers of proteins, are now back in vogue. And as it turns out, nothing was ever really wrong with them.
I see a lot of good marketing in agronomy these days. Really smart marketing. And any smart marketing is going to put buyers to a decision. Those decisions can often be based on fact of usage. Meaning, this is the right product for this job. They can influence decisions by way endorsement. Super Super uses this and so should you. These are decent messages and when combined with informed choice, they are legit.
Where I see the cows being run off the cliff is when science and facts take a back seat. And when a more "everybody is doing it" mindset comes into play. Further towards the edge we can go when this turns into a Flavor of the Month-seeking behavior. Running with the "in crowd" has perks and advantages, but if you are doing it for all the wrong reasons and not making informed choices, when you hit that cliff edge, it's too late.
Where I see the cows being run off the cliff is when science and facts take a back seat...
So, when I have a visit with a super and I start to hear the team choices, the marketing oriented speech where product- or process-oriented talking points are being sold to me as gospel or just the downright hype, I start asking questions. Really tough questions. The kind of questions that often have Turfheads' brains scrambled. We go through it to see why those choices have been made. And this way, we know that no one is going to fly their plane into that mountainside. It's a dramatic example. But if you have ever seen turfgrass carnage simply based on a choice of one side sersus another, it's instantly recognizable. Summer may not be the best time to evaluate this. But it also may be the best. Situational demands.
But I will tell you that when you are seeing the crash in your windshield, you will wish you took some time to really look deep into your decisions.
Dave Wilber is owner of Wilber Turf Services and is an agronomic consultant and advisor. Dave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org