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Preparing for the Landscape of the Future


Joseph Fearn

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Recently I watched a video on TurfNet TV from Randy Wilson, called Ten Years from Now. It, of course, takes place ten years in the future and talks about the scarcity of fungicide, fertilizer and diesel fuel. Even effluent water is being bought by a bottled water company rather than being used for irrigation on their course. Buddy laments they should have gone half organic when they had the chance, but they were worried about being ridiculed by the "Dark Green Fairway Movement". It is truly a great parody video, but like all parody has a ring of truth to it. Now I don?t know where golf specifically is headed, but I have some thoughts on several possible environmentally-focused changes for the industry as a whole.

 

pesticidefreezone_large.JPGChemical restrictions will continue, and increase

There are a number of hort/ag chemicals that have been banned in the past decade or so. I haven't kept a list of them, but I know it happened. This trend will continue and even accelerate. Even the neonicotinoids, which were heralded as a safer chemical, are coming under intense fire for possibly damaging bee colonies. Industry mainstays like glyphosate are in the sights of many environmental groups, and the sheer quantity of glyphosate used by the industry makes this product a ripe target. I only use chemicals under the most urgent situations, but for high quality sports fields and golf, some chemical use is a necessity. If our industry helps guide restriction legislation, rather than fight it out of hand, we will get to use the safest, most effective chemicals in the future.

 

If our industry helps
guide
restriction legislation, rather than fight it out of hand, we will get to use the safest, most effective chemicals in the future...

 

Inorganic fertilizer restrictions will continue, and increase

260f68e5780c92dc8985306b728c28e9-.jpgIn parts of the U.S., most noticeably around the Chesapeake Bay, fertilizer can only be applied after a soil sample indicates the need, and then only using certain products. This is a wise step, especially for homeowners, but I imagine there is very little oversight or monitoring. Certification is already needed in most situations for pesticide applications, and certification of fertilizer applicators is ramping up too. The fertilizer industry is seeing that organic fertilizers have more impact across the spectrum of turf nutrition needs because they benefit not only the plant, but also all the organisms and soil around it, creating a much healthier grass ecosystem. As more companies produce more organic and hybrid fertilizers, costs will come down. Given the efficacy and broad spectrum benefit of organics and hybrids, they may already be a better value per dollar.

 

You will need a permit to run a chainsaw

c9d87058a37c478d20d59a4edb4f38f2-.jpgPower equipment in the green industry is loud and relatively polluting when compared to other combustion based engines. Even with CARB standards, mowers and blowers are resource intensive. They use a lot of gas, generate more emissions than a car, and are uniformly loud. While all industry equipment, i.e. weed eaters, chain saws, hedge trimmers, etc. are much improved and more efficient today than in the past, they still will face scrutiny in the future, especially at the local level. In many places there are already noise restrictions, and a number of locales have restricted blower use. As cities enlarge, and green space shrinks, air quality concerns will allow legislators to focus on power equipment and the restrictions will increase. Couple power equipment with urban forest oversight and chainsaw permitting is a distinct possibility.

 

I will not be allowed to irrigate... at all

Irrigation restrictions are everywhere. In Nashville in the early 2000's we went on curtailment and could only water from 1am to 5am (4 million sq. ft. of total turf at 40 different sites, it couldn't be done). This effectively was a ban on commercial irrigation. During the 2012 Midwest drought, here in Springfield we could only water on odd/even days. Again, given the size of my campus, this was essentially a ban. I could water everything, but improperly and ineffectively. As water utilities need more water for drinking supplies and industry, horticulture irrigation will be the odd man out. Smart irrigation and increasingly efficient systems plus components will delay but not prevent the day when there is no water for irrigation.

 

Smart irrigation and increasingly efficient systems plus components will
delay
but not prevent the day when there is no water for irrigation...

 

The future is bright

I know that these predictions are not particularly far out or insightful. If anyone in our profession is surprised by them, they haven't been paying attention. There are certainly other changes to come also. Thinking as a green industry professional, I support these measures whole-heartedly. Increasing restrictions and environmental pressure will be good for our industry. No more will just anyone get to call themselves a turf expert or groundskeeper. For professionals, the ability to provide a high quality product, aligned with and heavily relying on natural processes, will be a necessity. This expertise will allow those able professionals to command better pay and control.

 

As future development expands, golf courses and college campuses will become some of the most important green spaces, both sought after and supported by government and the private sector. The challenge for our industry is to understand where we are headed, whether we like it or not, and to help define what that future will be. If our industry resists, we will not be able to affect the result, even though we will have to work within it.

4 Comments


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Parody or prophecy, or documentary (Chasing Rivermont), your videos are spectacular. Thanks for the comment. We all have seen alot of changes in the last 25 years. JF

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Great points. I am curious that with all the technology out there today that golf courses are still maturing? Not holding steady but continually growing thatch. Why when you attend the golf show that the tradesman have so many products that lead to reacting to the reaction rather than the initial problem. The point I am trying to make is superintendents are not stepping up to be stewards of the land thus getting a lot of scrutiny and stereo type. To much fertility, too much water etc. How did we get to this point?

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Bobby,

 

Thanks for the comment. "reacting to the reaction" is pretty accurate.

 

As front line stewards/managers (CGCS or Groundskeeper makes no difference) our primary concern is the health/beauty/playability of our course or campus. What is the primary objective of the tradesman?

 

Here at Drury University I have contractors, suppliers, and products I trust. All of these are used in order to accomplish the primary objective of health/beauty/playability of my course/campus. If they are significantly more interested in their success, rather than my course/campus success, I don't do business with them.

 

My tree contractor is a ISA Board Certified Master Arborist, and has proven to be as concerned with Drury's trees as his own success. He recognizes the mutually beneficial need and arrangement. Importantly, I recognize it also.

 

Evaluating the partnership focus of suppliers should answer your question.

 

Thanks again for the comment.

 

JF

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