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The Turfgrass Futurist, February 2014

Dave Wilber


Futurists or Futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose speciality is to attempt to  systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on earth in general.


Here we are, post-GIS2014 and all it's big reception and huge announcement glory and it is time to look at the future. eef2454265ced2b6243e79599453d9f0-.jpg


I've met and hung with a couple Futurists. Howard Rheingold wrote a book called "The Virtual Community" in 1992, which captured my imagination as much as any Star Trek episode. We were all just flirting with the idea that a bunch of Turfheads could stay connected via electronic mediums and Howard had the blueprint.


I also met Tom Mandel who was by far one of the most central figures I had ever seen in any online community. Tom did forecasting and trend analysis at a very high level and he taught me the value of not suffering fools and having your shit together when you engaged in online point making. Tom died at the age of 49. But much of what you see today online (except for blog comments and anonymous posting) has to do with his idea generation.


I'm pretty sure I can't hold the towels in the men's room for these cats, but I do know that some of my leaning and trend lookings have been pretty right on. I remember going to a meeting once where a bunch of we online turf types (just as the internet was starting) were trying to be sold a GCSAA partnership with compuserve and I protested, insisting that the Net was where things were going. I was never asked back to said committee and compuserve died a slow agonizing death while ideas like TurfNet flourished.


Despite what some people may say, I'm sure that being a Turfhead, indeed, has a future. A good one. And despite the efforts of some bad thinking, the idea that games can be played on grass is a good one and anchors an entire industry. Will the number of Acres change or will the use parameters change? They had better. Because all one has to do is to look at the gutta percha ball or a hickory shaft to know that the game has always been changing. That's why I don't mind talk of a less distance ball for some and a boomer for others. And I think the 5-hole Whisky Loop is a cool concept and I totally love the idea that perhaps feet may be the better choice for some rather than clubs on the golf course. Growth and change is inevitable.


What about Agronomy? Does my Obsidian Ball have any projections? I do, actually. And I'd like to think these aren't just educated guesses but actual trend analysis gathered not from test plots, but from actually being in the field, on the ground, most days.


1. Moisture monitoring will be bigger than ever. This isn't a hard one. We are already seeing a dramatic change in the entire way most people manage irrigation, based on in-field moisture meters. Be it in ground or portable, they are no longer a luxury, but indeed should be a part of every program along with the language of moisture being more common. Talking about moisture percentages before, during and after any water application event will no longer be an option.


2. ProBiotics will change the plant health world. One must only look at products like Daconil Action and look at Bayer acquiring AgriBioQuest to see this trend. But the key is in the field. We already know that the addition of the right biological supplementation will not only make a plant health product more effective, but perhaps limit the amount and frequency of the need for application of the AI. We aren't talking snake oil here. Get that out of your head. Real research and real money is being applied to this area with real results.


3. Low specific gravity nutrition products will go by the wayside. A weak solution is just that, a watered down version of what may be good. And having only one or maybe two ions in the jug used to be a way to do your own "custom" blending, but the reality has proven to be expensive, time consuming and largely ineffective. Modern liquid products are going to be dense suspensions of multiple materials designed to get the work done by bringing the whole team to the game, not just a marquis player. Of course that means that some people will try to get it all in the jug and if they don't know what they are doing, the result is a 2.5 gallon jug molded brick.




4. Everyone will play with GPS oriented sprayers and spreaders. The key word here is play. There may be some recording advantages and some actual use rate info, but for the most part, the stand alone system won't be able to compete with the handheld capability of an app, a handheld device or a wearable along the lines of google glass. Part of the problem is being upgradable to take advantage of new processing, new development and cross platform, integrated into life use. No one is going to want to buy all new logic or even a new application platform because tech package is outdated.


5. Soil Testing and Soil Test Data Interpretation is going to change, radically. A pair of independent researchers are leading the way here, but the truth is this world has needed reforms and they are coming. Labs and agronomists that aren't tied to "religion" before "science" will be fine. And data, while always a good thing, will get looked at differently for different reasons and will be tied much tighter to actual results. In our world, results don't equal Tons or Bushels so there has to be better science. It's coming.


6. Number 5 above will lead to change in fertilization and fertilizers. Gone will be the simple NPK synthetic blend. Single nutrients like Urea and AmSul will gain in popularity. Tying these to Carbon and perhaps another mineral will become the new blending technology. Release inhibitors may play a role. Most everyone is going to want the option of the same bag being spreadable or soluble. Not many people are going to need or want or will be willing to pay for coated products.


This blog post is a result of my being asked to talk more about the things that we are talking about in the field these days. And to do some trend analysis based on what is being seen, heard and yes, even felt in the Turfhead community. Agree? Everyone? Nah. Tom Mandel told me once that when he talked about the concept that led to Ebay at a think tank type conference, he was met with guffaws and worse. I suppose someone has to be right and others have to be wrong. I've been both. But willing to stick my neck out, none the less.





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Guest Kevin Smith


Religion before science? Just curious what I've been missing, is that a Koch Bros. inference?

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Totally agree. I have been playing with MLSN and have moved to single nutrients. Its cheaper and the end results are better. Probiotics aren't in my country yet but I am trying to get a supplier to get Dac Action here. Our moisture meter has been fantastic the last few summers. Would love some wireless ones around the course.

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I like to keep it simple but every time I read one of your deep blogs I feel like a child reading a code I have not been taught. Well done and spot on. Everything needs to change. The tipping point is here.

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