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An update on the Iowa State University recreational soccer project

In the fall of 2012, I was still working part time with Iowa State and the newly seeded athletic fields built the previous year were in need of attention for weak, spotty growth. Dr. Dave Minner, myself, and Brent Cunningham (of rec services at ISU) all went over what took place during field construction (an outside contractor built the fields) to try and determine why the newly seeded grass wasn’t growing like it should. The one thing that stuck out to us was the use of compost from the ISU dairy farms that hadn’t been tested prior to application. Using compost is a great way to build soil structure and organic matter, however, if it isn’t completely composted, it can contain high levels of soluble salts harmful to turfgrass growth. We took a handful of soil samples and sure enough, there were high levels of K, Mg and Na, some…

Turfgrass seed head production

The time of year is upon us when your turf starts to take on a brownish cast due to seed head production. The driving purpose of most plants is to perpetuate their species by reproduction and each year, grasses will attempt to put out a seed head for just that purpose. Why does turf look so brown and straw-like during seed head production? Because the plant is reallocating resources toward reproduction and taking a large majority of the carbohydrates  normally put toward shoot and root growth away. Also, seed head stalks have a completely different texture than the leaf blades you normally mow, which is what results in that straw-like, brownish-tan appearance. In the upper midwest, we are already mostly past the time for Kentucky bluegrass to produce seed heads, but the ryegrass period is upon us now in most areas or just around the corner. Perennial ryegrass has much…

Check your skin!

May is national skin cancer month so we wanted to remind all of you who daily work out in the sun — be careful! When you read tips on preventing skink cancer, they always suggest staying in the shade during the heated hours of the day. We know that’s not possible for you. So the best thing to do is wear sunscreen daily, with a high SPF. Make sure you re-apply too! And perhaps use skin cancer month as a good time to get your annual check up with a dermatologist. Any suspicious spots or moles, they’ll check out. You should also regularly check yourself for anything that looks unusual. Here’s what some skin cancers look like. Today is melanoma Monday. In 1980, the lifetime risk of developing melanoma was 1 in 250, according to according to Mayo Clinic. Today it is 1 in 50. Learn more. Read up on…

Drought Updates

With the seemingly endless supply of moisture falling in Iowa over the last three weeks, it’s hard to believe the drought of 2012 could still be in effect. Rivers are fuller than they’ve been in at least two years and waterlogged soil is everywhere. So, why hasn’t this recent rash of rain brought the drought discussion to an end? While the problem isn’t solved completely, the rains have eased the situation substantially. Our state climatologist, Harry Hillaker, noted the heaviest days of rain resulted in the wettest week of weather in terms of average statewide precipitation since June 2010. When the extremely wet weather started in late March/early April, frozen soils in the northern part of the state were not able to take in all of the moisture—although soils have thawed and were able to start taking in rain last week—and as a result, most ran off into the rivers,…

Growing golf – hope springs eternal

Depending on whom you ask, the official arrival of spring begins either on March 1 (meteorological spring), March 21 (astronomical spring) or Monday to kick off the start of Masters week (golfers’ spring). There is no tradition like the Masters Golf Tournament and if you are in the golf business you know what I mean. The membership at Augusta National Golf Club hosts the greatest event in all of sport, in my humble opinion. They do some unique things such as referring to ticket holders as “patrons,” price the concessions so inexpensive that the first time you visit The Masters as a patron you have to ask are you sure the price is right? A classic Coke cost $1.50 and a pimento cheese or ham sandwich costs only $1.50. Parking is FREE, and the grounds are manicured to perfection, leaving no stone unturned, no blade of grass out of place.…


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