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A hole in one: UF/IFAS research helps golf courses stay environmentally friendly

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As golf’s best players tee it up for the Master’s this week, University of Florida researchers are helping golf course superintendents nationwide make their links more environmentally sound by 2020.

Bryan Unruh, a professor of environmental horticulture with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led a team of UF/IFAS turfgrass scientists in building a template for golf course best management practices (BMP).

Those practices provide superintendents with tools to maintain golf courses to the satisfaction of golfers and owners, while complying with local, state and federal regulations, Unruh said. The guidelines cover everything from planning, design and construction of the courses to water quality and quantity used. They also cover nutrition, integrated pest management, pollinator protection and energy management, he said.

UF/IFAS researchers and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America hope all 50 states implement best management practices by 2020, said Unruh, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, Florida.

“We believe our work will prove useful in giving golf course superintendents the tools they need to help them ensure they preserve the environment,” Unruh said.

Among their environmental attributes, golf courses provide aesthetically pleasing greenspace and quality wildlife habitats. They can also filter pollutants from water and rain, according to research presented at the recent UF/IFAS Urban Landscape Summit.

In addition to Unruh, UF/IFAS faculty on the team are Travis Shaddox, assistant professor of environmental horticulture at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center; Jason Kruse, associate professor of environmental horticulture at the UF Gainesville campus and Don Rainey, interim county Extension director for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County.

The UF/IFAS team studied best management practices documents from around the country and assembled the content into a central source, Unruh said.

Unruh then wrote a planning guide, which tells golf course superintendents how to get started. In February, Unruh unveiled a web tool that allows golf course superintendents to clone their state BMP document and tailor it to their golf facility, Unruh said.

For example, once a Florida golf course has its BMP document in the web tool, the superintendent at a golf course would modify it to meet his or her specific needs, he said.

“Once they tailor the web tool to their course, superintendents should feel confident in knowing they are following best practices as set forth by state and national experts,” Unruh said.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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