Our outreach program is based on people using our research. Research and outreach priorities are driven by stakeholders, from whom we seek advice and feedback. The RI turfgrass industry relies heavily on the outreach efforts of our faculty with extension responsibility (Alm, Sullivan, Mitkowski).
The Turfgrass Research program at the University of Rhode Island has a long and productive history, resulting in many improved turfgrass varieties including ‘Providence’, ‘Exeter’ and the ‘Jamestown’ line of grasses. The Skogley Memorial Turfgrass Research Facility contains some of the oldest agricultural research plots in continual use within the United States. New developments in turfgrass breeding technologies and agronomic techniques will ensure that the URI Turfgrass Research program remains viable in the future.
The goal of the URI turfgrass program is to develop, evaluate, and promote turfgrass varieties with increased tolerance to stress, including that caused by mowing, wear, reduced irrigation, insect and disease pests, and increased salt tolerance. Evaluation of the local fitness of turfgrass varieties developed elsewhere is also a very important part of the research program.
Relevance to Stakeholders: Golf course superintendents, sod growers, sports turf managers and the public benefit directly from the development of new germplasm and the development of new techniques to reduce the effects of turfgrass management on the environment. The results of turfgrass research can often be applied directly to public needs and our faculty interact directly with stakeholders through extension meetings, Turf (and Sod Grower) Field Days, New England Regional Turf Conference (in Providence), numerous publications and site visits. Faculty also participate routinely in educational programs administered through the C.E. Center (Master Gardeners, GreenShare, and special programs).
In Rhode Island, ~ 4,000 acres are planted to sod annually with an approximate value of $32 million. RI also has ~ 30 public golf courses. Across New England, some 650 public golf courses contribute millions to local communities in tourist and recreation dollars. Diseases and insect pests pose a considerable threat to the viability of both golf courses and sod farms.
The goal of the turfgrass disease program at the University of Rhode Island is to develop strategies to manage stress related diseases of turf. In the Northeast, golf course turf is managed intensively and is susceptible to a number of pathogens. Susceptibility is often directly related to physiological stresses including mowing height, compaction and drought. Research will attempt to identify new and evolving stress related pathogens, determine their significance and develop integrated management strategies to lessen disease pressure. Organisms that will be addressed include Cephalosporium, Leptosphaerulina and other fungal species. Nematodes are a perennial stress related pathogen on turf in New England and the diversity and management of turf nematodes will also be explored. In addition, research will examine the biology and control of bacterial blight of bentgrass, an emerging disease, and diseases of ornamental grasses (which are now becoming increasingly common in the Northeast) will also be examined. Fungicide efficacy trials, which have been an important part of the URI turfgrass research program, will be continued to provide current information as to the utility of specific fungicides and the incidence of fungicide resistance in Rhode Island.
The Cooperative Extension education center receives over 2,000 calls each year about control of white grubs infesting turfgrasses. Through our research efforts we are able to provide the latest control information to homeowners, golf course superintendents (via Turf Field Day, The NE Regional Turf Conference, and monthly meetings, landscapers (via GreenShare, RINLA Short Courses and Pesticide Applicator Training programs), and sod growers (Turf Field Day).
Relevance to Stakeholders: Outreach is a major component of the work carried out by turf disease and insect faculty at URI. The Turfgrass Disease Identification Clinic services golf course superintendents, sod growers and home owners from within the State of Rhode Island and around the region. Disease diagnosis is made by faculty and technicians and the most effective management strategies are communicated to stakeholders. In 2001, approximately 300 disease samples were processed at this laboratory. This is one of only two turfgrass diagnostic laboratories in New England. Insect identification and control recommendations are made though the turf insect program in a similar fashion. All faculty contribute annually to various turfgrass and ornamental meetings in Rhode Island (RINLA, NE Regional Turfgrass Meeting, NE-171 Regional Nematology Meeting, Pesticide Applicator Training, etc.) In addition, faculty are involved in site visits throughout the year to aid in the management of special problems.