to study environmental issues
related to turfgrass
Finding better, more environmentally friendly ways of managing North Carolinas 2.2 million acres of turfgrass: Thats the goal of a new N.C. State University research and education center.
Through the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hopes to find out more about how water quality is affected by pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals used to make lawns, golf-course greens, athletic fields and other grassy areas healthy. College scientists also plan to develop new ways to manage insects, weeds and diseases in ways that enhance the environment.
The center was established in December, after the N.C. General Assembly passed a bill providing $600,000 for environmental research and educational programs related to turfgrass. The funds will come from taxes on the sale of fertilizer and seed to people who arent farmers. Such sales had previously been exempt from the sales tax.
The center directors are Dr. Rick Brandenburg, professor of entomology; Dr. Tom Rufty, professor of crop science; and Dr. Fred Yelverton, an associate professor of crop science. Brandenburg and Yelverton also are specialists with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
They will be working with their colleagues in a number of other disciplines economics, plant pathology and soil science, among them to consider the environmental effects of turfgrass in a number of settings.
While 60 percent of North Carolinas turfgrass is in home lawns, it is also an important component of roadsides, parks and recreational facilities, commercial properties, churches, schools, airports and cemeteries.
Golf courses, athletic fields, sod farms, lawn-care companies, grounds-management firms, garden centers and equipment suppliers all depend on turfgrass. Such turfgrass industries are estimated to be worth more than $3.8 billion a year to North Carolina.
But keeping turfgrass and related industries healthy is a challenge in North Carolina. Because most turf species grown in the Southeastern United States arent native, they can be overtaken by natural vegetation if they arent managed intensively, says Yelverton, a weed expert. Pesticides and fertilizers are often used to keep turfgrass healthy.
While scientists have in recent decades conducted extensive studies on how such chemicals affect the environment when they are used on agricultural crops, less is known about what happens when they are used on turfgrass.
You need to keep in mind that turfgrass is grown on 2.2 million acres in North Carolina, and thats much more than any other single commodity, Yelverton says. The most widely grown crop, soybeans, occupies 1.3 million acres, and cotton is next at 800,000.
industry is clearly significant to the states economy, and we
want to make sure that it remains strong, he says. To do
so, we need alternative strategies for managing turfgrass systems in
ways that enhance the environment, and thats what the centers
work is all about.