The best turf education web sites

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 30, 2011 14:48

The best turf education web sites

Many reach positions of head greenkeeper / course manager through hard work, reliability and the ability to organise a team to carry out the required turf maintenance. Many will have achieved qualifications along the way and have a good understanding of turfgrass management. However, what happens when they need to make a decision or diagnose solutions to a particular problem that is outside of their existing experience and / or knowledge?

Finding solutions involves a logical procedure:

1. Identify the problem you are faced with, or the subject you want to study. This could be the first stumbling block. If you make a mistake in identifying the problem or subject you will not get the right answer.

2. Research possible solutions through books, your own experience, from colleagues, commercial companies, open forums on websites and internet-based information.

3. Sift the information you have gathered to match your circumstances as closely as possible.

4. Study the information to get a ‘feel’ for where your solution may lie. The more you read the greater the consensus of opinion you will find on solutions to your enquiry.

5. Work out, from the available information, your own idea of a possible solution. You may have to amalgamate three or four separate pieces of information or research.

6. Try your solution.

7. If it works, great, if not look at your information again.

Let me point out that you will not get the exact answer you want. Scientific study is about the probability of being right. You will find that trials and experiments are statistically analysed on the basis of being at least 95 per cent sure the conclusions fit a particular hypothesis. In this case you will see the expression p≤0.05 of probability of less than or equal to five per cent, that is, the researcher is basing his claims on a less than or equal to five per cent probability the findings do not fit the hypothesis. If the findings are statistically more than five per cent then the findings could have happened purely by chance and you cannot claim they can be repeated.

There are many good turf science books on the market but they are expensive and many people do not have the resources to build up a library. However, the internet offers a tremendous amount of information. A Google search on ‘Turfgrass’ will get you 574,000 hits, ‘Turfgrass Science’ 94,900, and 23,200,000 just for the word ‘turf’. So, how do we go about finding the information we want and then applying it to our circumstances? We need to use internet-based databases of turfgrass research. In recent years there have appeared some excellent sites available for free and we shall now look at these.

1. highwire.stanford.edu – This site is sponsored by Standford University, USA. Open the site and enter a turfgrass related search word and press the search button. A list of research papers will appear, some completely free and others you may have to pay a fee to gain full access. Before you chose which to purchase or download, first read the abstract. This is a free summary of the contents and will give you a good idea whether to proceed.

2. www.usga.org/turf – A comprehensive range of articles and research papers on turfgrass management and construction. Particularly of use will be the link titled Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online. Click on this and then Browse TERO Articles and choose from a list of free, full text research papers written for turf managers.

3. www.stri.co.uk – Become a member of the SUB Club and you will have access to electronic copies of The Journal of Turfgrass and Sports Surface Science.

4. turf.cas.psu.edu – Access to turfgrass conference proceedings run at Penn State University.

5. turf.rutgers.edu – Yet more science-based knowledge and information, especially on turfgrass weeds.

6. hcs.osu.edu/hcs/turf.html – Another mine of information on turfgrass science subjects.

If you have tried some of these sites, or other sites I have not highlighted, you may be bewildered by the amount of information available to you. It will take time and effort to identify suitable information and you need to be aware of the following safeguards as you study:

a) Who has published the findings? The author and research centre may be trying to prove their particular theory and come to conclusions not backed up by work carried out by other people.

b) Who is the intended audience? You will get different language used if the intended readers are PhD holding professors as opposed to further or higher educated turf managers. The USGA site is very good for publishing high quality research in a language that is aimed at turf managers yet not patronising them.

c) Check whether there is a reference or bibliography section. The author should have referred to other people’s work, where the methods were used before or who developed them, and where the conclusions agreed or differed with others. This can be checked for accuracy by looking up the information for yourself. Beware of research that is not referenced as it cannot be checked for accuracy or originality.

d) Choose information that is relevant to your circumstances. You may have bentgrass greens in Scotland and applying results from research carried out in California may not be wise. However, you may find something of use so do not disregard the information entirely. Also, the vast majority of research is carried out by universities in the USA so you may not have a choice but to consider the information.

A good trials or research paper will follow the following format:

i. An abstract, or summary, of the purpose of the research, the methods used and a brief report of the results.

ii. The author will follow with an introduction as to the reasons for the research

iii. The next section will be methods, detailing the materials used, how the trial or research was carried and who originated the methods, and the method of statistical data analysis.

iv. This will be followed by a results section, detailing the figures and data collected. This section may be full of graphs, charts and statistical analysis.

v. A discussion will detail implications of the results, for example turf management techniques, areas of failure and success, and possible further areas of study required.

vi. The discussion may be the final section or a conclusion may be added to clarify some areas of the trial that have confirmed the original intention of the work, or to recommend further study.

A magazine article may not have this format and may not even be referenced. This makes it very difficult to check the information and must be regarded as informative but not necessarily correct. There is masses of information available to us and I hope the above helps you to find the solution to your enquiry.

Andrew Turnbull BSc (Hons), Dip RSA, Cert Ed is proprietor of AllTurf Management, based in Belfast

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 30, 2011 14:48
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