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John Reitman

By John Reitman

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Making sense of science

Larry Stowell, Ph.D., and Wendy Gelernter, Ph.D. of Pace Turfgrass Information Center.

It's no secret that insight into the latest turfgrass research is invaluable in today's world. Demands placed upon professional turfgrass managers present myriad challenges that are not part of the university curriculum.
However, making heads or tails of the nomenclature in research publications can be equally challenging.
Larry Stowell and Wendy Gelernter, a couple of Ph.D.s specializing in plant and pest pathology respectively, recognized those challenges, and since 1988 as principals of San Diego-based Pace Turf Information Center have been helping turfgrass managers make sense of the information they need to do their jobs in today's high-pressure world of turfgrass management. Even the company's state mission on the Pace Turf Web site says it all: "Dr. Wendy Gelernter and Dr. Larry Stowell translate science into practical information . . . that you will refer to again and again in the development of your turfgrass management program."
Together (after all, they are married to each other) Gelernter and Stowell help turf managers develop complete integrated pest management programs and also provide access to volumes of proprietary information on turfgrass selection, fertilization, insect pest control, irrigation, soil testing and monitoring, disease management and the role of local weather in turf management.
"They are a clearinghouse of information for a lot of the work that is being done out there," said Michael Stachowicz, a former golf course superintendent now working for the National Park Service. 
Through the years, their expertise and dedication to helping superintendents make sense of complicated research data have been integral in earning the trust of turf managers around the country.
Pat Finlen, CGCS, most recently called upon Gelernter and Stowell during a renovation of the Lake Course at The Olympic Club in San Francisco in preparation for the 2012 U.S. Open.
"We used them for a number of reasons," Finlen said. "Most noteworthy is credibility, thoroughness and ability to see through issues in a manner that leads to objective analysis and results."
Prior to offering independent analysis of research data and objective agronomic advice, Gelernter and Stowell plied their trades for Mycogen Corp., a biotech firm located in San Diego.
Their Web site contains volumes of information for member clients including localized weather models, disease and insect pest information and predictor models, a photo gallery to help identify specific pests and diseases, and weekly updates on new turf management practices, research, pests and products delivered to members' email boxes.
Until January, Stachowicz spent the past 15 years as a golf course superintendent, and for many of those years he used Pace Turf's services to help develop IPM programs and monitor pest and disease pressure. He also used what he's learned as a Pace member to develop the same protocols in his new position the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., where he serves as turf management specialist for the National Mall and memorial parks.
"What they offer is a very scientific look at turfgrass management that is based in science," Stachowicz said. "But they offer information in a unique and practical way that makes it easy to understand."
Although much of what Gelernter and Stowell offer is reserved for Pace members only, they also offer a great deal of information that is free to non-members, as well, such as the Super Journal, where university researchers and superintendents can upload results of their own research projects for others to see. Pace also offers an annual research seminar and its YouTube channel now includes more than 60 videos designed to help superintendents explain the need for many of the game's agronomic practices to committees, members, chairmen, general managers, owners and golfers in the same easy-to-understand language that has become a Pace trademark.
"I know that their livelihood depends on intellectual property, but they never shy away from helping out anyone when they can," Stachowicz said. "That's pretty remarkable." 
Because of their dedication to the industry in general rather than just their customers, Gelernter and Stowell were awarded the 2009 Environmental Communicator of the Year award by the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association.
"They have always been so helpful to superintendents on a number of different levels. Larry replies on forums with answers to questions," Finlen said. "Larry and Wendy help others in the same spirit that superintendents help each other. They truly embody what is good about our profession."

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