As a research scientist, Brian Horgan spends a lot of time looking for ways to promote healthy turf.
He also is concerned about sustainability and ensuring that the same things that make turf healthy dont harm the environment in other ways.
Horgan, of the University of Minnesota, and Pam Rice, Ph.D., a chemist with the U.S. Department of Agricultures Agricultural Research Service in St. Paul are looking for ways to minimize the risk of pesticide and fertilizer runoff into adjacent water bodies, and at least two management practices common on golf courses could help turf managers accomplish just that.
Rice and Horgan compared the effects of two turf management practices - hollow tine coring and verticutting - on controlling pesticide runoff by simulating rain events at the university's research station. The trial was conducted on creeping bentgrass and fine fescue maintained at fairway height. The researchers simulated rain with on-site irrigation and gutters channelled runoff into a flume that allowed them to control precipitation, measure runoff and collect samples for pesticide analysis.
The work was funded in party by the USGA.
"Golf courses can be surrounded by hundreds, or even thousands, of people living right alongside them," said Mike Kenna, Ph.D., director of research for the USGA Green Section, "so it's important to us that they're managed in an environmentally friendly way, and that they are not polluting the air or the water."
Horgan and Rice measured concentrations of five different pesticides in the runoff and found that core aerifying helped the soil absorb more runoff than verticutting and was more effective than coring and verticutting together, possibly because vertical mowing can compact the soil at points where the mower blades cut into it, the researchers said. The take-home message, they said, is go with coring if you are concerned about pesticide runoff at your golf course.
The results, which can help superintendents and researchers develop management strategies to improve environmental stewardship of managed turf while providing desired turf quality, were published in Science of the Total Environment.