It's that time of year again; college seniors prepare for life
after graduation, farmers get ready to plant their crops, and golfers
dream of sinking the first putt of the season. With help from University
of Minnesota researchers, golfers suffering from cabin fever may
chase their dreams on winter-hardy, disease-resistant greens using
a turf variety developed on the St. Paul campus.
Poa annua is a grass species that makes-up a major component
of the golf course turf in cooler areas of the world. According
to Eric Watkins, assistant professor of horticultural science, it
is highly competitive, especially on greens, where it often pushes-out
the more common bentgrass. However, Poa annua is susceptible to
disease and refreezing and is prone to seeding continuously in the
spring and fall, leading to brown, bumpy greens.
So rather than trying to beat Poa annua, University researchers
decided to improve it and turn it into a useful golf turf. Now,
thanks to 30 years of breeding work, the University of Minnesota
has patented a turf variety of Poa annua and licensed it DLF International
Seeds who is selling it as True Putt creeping bluegrass.
Created by Donald White, professor of horticultural science, this
new creeping bluegrass is nothing short of a revolution in turf
grass. The turf is very adaptable for multiple uses, but where it
really shines is on golf greens. Compared to Poa annua, it is more
disease resistant, has an improved color, and resists stress better.
In addition, and of most interest to golfers, the vertical growth
habit of the turf means that greens not only stay green but that
golf balls roll better.
In cooler climates around the world like the Pacific Northwest,
this new creeping bluegrass is taking root. "The feedback from
golfers and the constant compliments on the density, color, and
speed of greens makes True Putt the obvious choice for our putting
surfaces," said Matt Peltier, head superintendent of Springhill
Country Club in Albany, Oregon. Springhill is just one of several
in Oregon and Washington using this turf.
Other golf courses using the University-developed variety include
Pebble Beach and Riviera Country Club in California. In addition,
DLF International is testing True Putt in England and Europe.
University researchers continue to work on improving turf varieties
like Poa annua as well as other species like Kentucky Bluegrass,
which is used in home lawns and athletic fields. "Much of the
turf grass research at the University is focused on reducing inputs
like fertilizer, pesticides, and water by developing better management
practices and improved turf grass varieties resistant to various
stresses," said Watkins.
If only these researchers could improve putters' aims on the greens
at the same time, then we really would have something.
WRITTEN BY BRUCE ERICKSON