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Updated: 7 min 53 sec ago

Turf industry bolsters defense of crumb rubber safety

April 28, 2016

By Paul Steinbach, Athletic Business magazine

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our children.” So opens a video released jointly by the Safe Fields Alliance and the Recycled Rubber Council this past February. The video, titled “The Truth About Crumb Rubber and Artificial Turf,” mentions the words “safe” or “safety” 10 times in seven minutes. It’s the most visible effort yet by turf industry advocates to counter mainstream media reports — what the video terms “scary news stories” — that seem to lend credence to suspicions that crumb rubber infill in synthetic turf sports fields may cause cancer, even as these same reports admit, as NBC Nightly News did Oct. 1 of last year, “No research has linked crumb rubber or shredded rubber to cancer.”

At the center of NBC’s two-part “Fields of Danger?” report that aired last fall — as well as the network’s initial investigation a year earlier — is Amy Griffin. The associate head women’s soccer coach at the University of Washington first drew the attention of local affiliate KOMO with a list she began compiling of young players, predominantly goalkeepers, who had been exposed to crumb rubber, the product of recycled car tires, and become ill — her personal exercise in curiosity as much as insisting cause and effect.

“Right now, there’s no way to prove that enough of any of this is getting into us that it’s actually a direct link. But, that was my gut feeling,” says Griffin, who has coached goalkeepers for Washington’s women’s team for 20 years and long wondered if carcinogenic components in car tires could be rendered toxic in particle form and under certain conditions. “Even on their busiest days, keepers are not rolling around on the turf. But in training, we hit the ground hundreds of times, and especially on a hot day, the crumb rubber sticks to you. So every way it could enter a body and become an issue, we’re getting it a lot. We eat it by accident, we get it in our abrasions, we get it in our eyes, and we breathe.”

As of this writing, Griffin’s list contained the names of 203 athletes with a confirmed cancer diagnosis. The 159 soccer players listed included 103 goalkeepers. All but a handful of the 203 have played on synthetic turf containing crumb rubber. Thirty-six have died, including 11 in 2015 alone.

“This is just a goalkeeper coach looking at the list, but it seems like the ones with the blood-related cancers are the ones who have played a significant amount on crumb rubber, and if there’s someone with melanoma, it’s one who has never played on crumb rubber,” Griffin says, adding that more than one scientist on the UW campus has told her that she’s “on to something” (her words). For confirmation, Griffin turned her list over to Washington’s Department of Health, which has been cross-referencing the coach’s data against state cancer registries to see if rates of diagnosis are consistent or cause for alarm. The DOH told AB its findings will be released in late spring.

“Obviously, this is a very serious issue. Cancer is a health effect that is very concerning,” says Michael Peterson, senior toxicologist at Gradient Consulting and scientific adviser to the Recycled Rubber Council, who cautions, “Just based on how epidemiology studies are conducted, it’s very difficult to find a comparison population to soccer players. The good news is it’s being looked at, but it’s going to be hard for Washington state to make any definitive conclusions because this list is just completely anecdotal at this point.”

MOUNTING SKEPTICISM

Between 2009 and 2011, limited studies by government agencies in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey did not find an elevated health risk associated with exposure to fields containing crumb rubber. Meanwhile, individuals including members of the medical community have weighed in as well. “It’s incredibly difficult to ascribe a cause to a specific type of cancer, since there can be many factors leading to cancer formation,” writes Dev Mishra, a clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University, on SidelineSportsDoc.com. “Witness the fact that it took several decades to prove that cigarette smoking can cause lung cancer.”

Says John Sorochan, a University of Tennessee turf grass professor and founder of the Center for Athletic Field Safety, “Of course, we need to look at things. Dose equals poison. Paracelsus told us that in the 1400s. Water’s a poison if you consume too much water.”

Sorochan’s corner of the Knoxville campus contains 72 sports surface swatches, including 40 synthetic turf systems, which reside over pond liners from which water samples are gathered during leachate studies. Sorochan asserts that it’s “highly unlikely” athletes are subject to high enough doses of ingredients extracted from recycled rubber to cause health issues.

“I guess this is me on my soapbox, but I have an eight-year-old and an 11-year-old who play travel soccer,” he says. “They train three times a week on an artificial field. My youngest has been playing since he was four years old on an artificial field, so he’s a lot closer to the surface than goalies are. And kids fall down all the time. It’s the whole reason I got into doing what I do, and why we have the Center for Athletic Field Safety.”

Sorochan is also quick to point out that linemen and running backs in football, a sport that has embraced crumb rubber synthetic surfaces for longer and in far greater numbers than has the soccer community, come in direct contact with infill exponentially more often than do soccer goalkeepers. But his skepticism transcends sports. “If you look at the real-world perspective, we have a quarter of a billion cars on the road every day, which means there are a billion car tires. You have to replace your car tires because the rubber wears, and it wears down into a fine particulate. If you’re looking at what you put in a synthetic field, you’re looking at a really course particle size, whereas car tires break down into a fine dust. Then every time it rains, that tire debris washes into our sewer systems and goes directly into our rivers and streams. If there’s a contamination concern, it would be way greater in urban areas from car tires being driven up and down the streets than it would from crumb rubber on athletic fields.”

INDUSTRY FRUSTRATED, THRIVING

The cloud of confusion has not lingered without producing some fallout. While a majority of municipalities and school districts have opted to maintain the status quo in terms of their synthetic turf fields in the absence of evidence linking crumb rubber to health risks, others have cancelled planned installations. Still others have decided to stick with crumb rubber for now, but transition to organic infill alternatives such as cork or coconut fiber as new fields are constructed.

It’s a luxury of choice that has faced legislative threat. In 2014, the California Tire Dealers Association helped defeat a bill that would have placed a moratorium on schools and municipalities installing crumb rubber athletic fields in that state, which is already home to more than 900 synthetic turf fields. The bill also would have kept the California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling from issuing grants or rebates to synthetic turf producers and end users.

“What is so frustrating for the industry is that the critics perpetuating these persistent unfounded concerns continue to utilize half-truths and outright false statements that continue to frighten and alarm parents and public officials,” says Al Garver, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, a nonprofit association that has done its part to clear the air with informational toolkits. “Between October 2014 and October 2015, we sent out hundreds of those electronically, and our members would also provide them when the issue would come up from their customers or within their region. Over the course of that year, many of those entities investigated the unfounded claims, discovered the available studies, and came to the same conclusions nearly every one of 60-plus studies did: There is nothing that indicates elevated risk. To our knowledge, all have kept their fields or are continuing to purchase. We have heard of a few that opted to change to an alternative infill, but demand for synthetic turf fields continued to increase in 2015. We estimate 1,500 fields were built, with more than 13,000 in use today in America.”

FILLING DATA GAPS

Last fall, a three-year study considered by some to be the most comprehensive to date began with three workshops and a webinar to assess and ultimately address as many crumb rubber concerns as possible. Funded by CalRecycle, the $3 million study is the third on the topic conducted by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which, with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will look at the potential impact on crumb rubber of such factors as heat and turf system lifecycle — two items that have bothered Griffin by their absence in existing research.

Even those who have conducted studies have recognized their limitations. Last August, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that 2008 research was “not good enough” to claim whether or not crumb rubber is safe, reversing its longstanding opinion that it is. The EPA likewise has backtracked from 2009 claims that crumb rubber posed “low levels of concern.” On Feb. 12 of this year, the Obama administration announced that the CPSC, the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — 50 federal employees in all — will conduct a new $2 million federal study.

That announcement does not change plans for the California study, according to Sam Delson, the OEHHA’s deputy director for external and legislative affairs. “We’re looking to fill in the most significant data gaps from the previous research, but it could take more than three years and the $3 million that we have for this study to answer every possible question,” he says. “We’re going to do our best to address the concerns that many parents, coaches and athletes have over the safety of this surface. There’s nothing more important than the safety of our children and young athletes who, as bodies are developing, are especially susceptible to health risks in many cases, and we expect to significantly advance the body of knowledge on this subject.”

While the study won’t be completed until 2018, the OEHHA intends to release in 2017 preliminary findings that will inform the design of additional research protocols — perhaps involving biomonitoring of athletes. Time will tell whether such efforts will quell remaining concerns, particularly those of one curious soccer coach.

“As far as Amy Griffin, we applaud her efforts to raise attention to her concerns about the potential health effects of synthetic turf, and certainly the number of names she’s collected raises concerns,” Delson says. “But that information in and of itself is not statistically valid, so we need to build on that and go further to answer these questions. As I understand, she would be one of the first to acknowledge that.”

“There will always be skeptics in the scientific field. It’s impossible to prove that there’s no risk. It’s impossible to prove a negative,” adds the RRC’s Peterson, who has examined product safety for 20 years. “However, the California study is going to cover a huge variety of different end points and exposure scenarios. And I would hope that if that study comes back with a clean bill of health it would put this issue to bed.”

The Synthetic Turf Council is likewise looking for closure. In a Feb. 12 statement, the council said it hopes the federal government’s renewed involvement will “settle this matter once and for all.”

“We have consistently said that we support all additional research,” the statement reads. “At the same time, we strongly reaffirm that the existing studies clearly show that artificial turf fields and playgrounds with crumb rubber infill are safe and have no link to any health issues.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Athletic Business with the title “The Case for Crumb Rubber”

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Private schools to offer tackle/flag football hybrid

April 28, 2016

Seeking to address dwindling participation numbers and hoping to quell parental fears about the safety of football, the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC) held a panel discussion on Feb. 29 to introduce some significant changes to the way football is offered by member schools.

Six private schools – Blake, Breck, Minnehaha Academy, Mounds Park Academy, Providence Academy and St. Paul Academy and Summit School – make up the IMAC. All six are pre-K through 12 institutions. Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, conference schools will offer flag football only to students in grades five and six, and a modified “hybrid” of tackle and flag football in grades seven and eight.

Players can begin playing tackle football in ninth grade.

“What we see on the playgrounds is that, when the kids get the chance, they’re always playing some sort of football,” Providence Academy Activities Director Kurt Jaeger said. “It’s a great game. We wanted use that enthusiasm.”

Jaeger said the change was spurred during a meeting of school representatives, athletic directors and coaches to discuss the future of football. Numbers at all of the schools had dropped so far that four of them – Blake, Minnehaha, Mounds Park and St. Paul Academy – combined to form a cooperative last season. That team, the SMB Wolfpack, finished the regular season undefeated and was so successful that league members felt it necessary to ensure football’s future.

“We thought it was important to get kids interested from the bottom up,” Jaeger said.

Conference representatives felt flag football will not only allow young athletes to enjoy the sport without incurring the risk of collisions but that it would be more inclusionary for athletes of all sizes by eliminating the weight restrictions in common in youth football.

“Bigger kids can play all positions if they’re not be tackled to the ground. Littler kids can play all positions if they’re not being tackled to the ground,” Jaeger said. “And at the same time, in seventh and eighth grades, we can use that time to teach kids how to tackle properly.”

Members of the panel convened to discuss football, and contact sports in general, were:

  • Dr. Uzma Samadani, a neurosurgeon and brain injury researcher at Hennepin County Medical Center and co-author of “The Football Decision: An Exploration Into Every Parent’s Decision Whether or Not to Let a Child Play Contact Sports.”
  • Edward Kim, Breck head of school.
  • Derek Asche, head football coach at Providence Academy.
  • Abby Turbes, a full-time athletic trainer at Blake contracted through Twin Cities Orthopedics.
  • Dr. Andrew Arthur, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with a subspecialty certification in sports medicine and former three-sport athlete at Blake.
  • Dr. James Wolpert, a pediatric urologist for Pediatric Surgical Associates and father of four sons who were student-athletes at Minnehaha Academy.

Panel members discussed the problems associated with football and agreed there are risks but that those risks are generally no greater than risks associated with other sports.

Members of the panel also spoke in favor of the IMAC’s proposed changes and emphasized that the advantages to playing football often outweigh the risks.

“The trainer [Abby Turbes] said that, although it’s a small sample size since she’s only in her second year, football is fourth on the list where they see the most concussions per capita,” Jaeger said. “I think girls’ soccer was second.”

Jaeger added that one of the benefits of football is the positive community environment surrounding a football game.

“We don’t have a better-attended sport than football,” Jaeger said. “If possible, we’d like to play all of these football games on Friday. We’d like to make it a big day for football for all levels.”

Jaeger said the IMAC reached out to the Minnesota State High School League to inform the league about the changes and that non-IMAC schools have already made inquiries about joining them.

The meeting was webcast and archived on the IMAC website and be viewed at www.imacmn.com.- by Jim Paulsen

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

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Survey shows only 3% of college grads would consider careers in agriculture

April 28, 2016

Not only has there been a decrease in young people interested in the turfgrass industry, but the entire agriculture industry is feeling the effects of reduced college graduates entering agricultural careers. USDA job reports found that 20,000 agriculture jobs go unfilled each year. Click here to learn more about the misperceptions associated with agriculture careers and possible solutions to attract young people to the field.

 

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Texas synthetic turf fields could become playoff destinations

April 28, 2016

Hermleigh, Graford and Brock aren’t exactly garden spots in the state of Texas, nor are they some of the bigger metropolises of the state.

But putting artificial turf down on their baseball and softball fields has made them popular spots during the UIL baseball and softball playoffs in the spring.

Bowie and Henrietta have recently thrown their hats into the ring, as well, and hosted more than 40 playoff games in 2015.

But Wichita Falls could soon be a major player in the late spring after the decisions by the Wichita Falls ISD and Midwestern State University to turf their fields.

Artificial turf is currently being installed at Hoskins Field (baseball) and Skip Brown Field (Sunrise Optimist Field No. 2) at the Memorial Complex, while the field at MSU’s Mustangs Park was scheduled to be ready by the first week in February.

The new fields will make it easier to get games in when it rains, but the drought that preceded last year’s record rains had a lot to do with the decisions as well.

“After going through four years of drought and then record rainfall, it’s been tough on the fields and expensive to maintain them,” said Scot Hafley, WFISD athletic director. “And then when we got the rain, we were limited in the number of games we could get in. It will help out in the playoffs as well. Last year Rider had to play at two different sites – Bowie and Henrietta – to finish its series with Aledo.

“A growing number of schools that we compete with have or are adding turf fields. We want our players and coaches to have the same resources.”

Although they did end up capturing the District 5-5A title last year, Rider coach Josh Bobbitt didn’t like the way his team had to play at the end of the season because of rainouts.

“We ended up having to play back-to-back-to-back and that was hard on us,” he said. “With this, as long as it’s not actually raining or lightning, we’ll be able to get our games in. In the long run, this is a no-brainer. I’m really excited for the kids. This could be a big advantage.”

MSU softball coach Brady Tigert admits it will make his job easier not having to spend time each day working on the grass field. But safety is the main issue as far as he’s concerned.

“That field really needed to be watered every day to get the dirt right so you don’t get bad hops,” he said. “But we were only able to water it once a week (with well water). Now all the hops will be true.

“Having turf will help us save on equipment as well. Less wear and tear on softballs, on uniforms and on our players as well. The field is cushioned more now. It was kind of hard during the drought.”

Hafley, Bobbitt and Tigert all agree that the addition of turf fields will help Wichita Falls once the playoffs roll around.

“We’re hoping that our own teams are using it for the playoffs,” Hafley said. “But we anticipate sharing with other teams wanting to use our fields. The Memorial Complex has long been a showplace for the district and the city.”

“This is the halfway point for a lot of teams in West Texas and the Arlington/Fort Worth area,” Bobbitt said. “They’re always looking for a place to play. We have the stadium; it has the seating; and now it will have a state-of-the-art field to go along with it. Plus, it’s in a bigger community.”

Mustangs Park was a great place to play when it was a grass field. It will probably draw more attention now.

“We had six or seven dates scheduled for last year that we couldn’t get in because of the rain,” Tigert said. “But that won’t be a problem now with the turf field. And we’re also making some other changes that will make this a great place to play.”

 

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Meet Ken Edwards, CSFM, Gulfport, MS

April 26, 2016

By Amanda Miles

In Ken’s words, “Never in a million years did I expect to be President of a three-state turf or greens industry organization. After my stint as President of the Mississippi Turfgrass Association in 2005-06, I settled on just being part of the program, providing whatever assistance the industry needed. As Board Member of the MTA I learned about the possibility of combining the three states’ conferences and trade shows into one. When the opportunity presented itself a couple of years ago I accepted a position on the Deep South Turf Expo Board because of my commitment in helping our industry move forward. During the process of nominating officers the floor opened up for the position of Vice-President. The floor got quiet and before Stephen Miles could say my name (I sensed it.) I volunteered for the position and was elected. (Thanks again, Stephen.) It really is an honor for me to serve this year as President. I consider the Expo an excellent opportunity for the greens industry in the southeast to grow and prosper with its consolidated trade show and educational sessions. Thanks to all involved! I think we hit it out of the park with this one!”

Ken serves as Sports Field Manager for the Gulfport Sportsplex, a large municipal multi-use sports complex that he has been an integral part of since its construction in 1999. The Sportsplex opened in January of 2001 and has since provided Gulfport with a wide array of recreational opportunities and revenue from the tourism market of sports activities. On March 8, 2016, the Sportsplex was awarded the Southern Region Sports Complex of the Year by the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA).

Ken’s involvement in sports field management began while he was in the United States Army. When he was not deployed, or in training, he was assigned duties as the Base Recreation Specialist, who was responsible for the scheduling and maintenance of the base’s ball fields and golf course. He served as Specialist at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Fort Kobbe in Panama, and Camp Casey in Korea. After his military service he was Recreation Specialist at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport until his employment at the Sportsplex.

The military honed Ken’s skills as a leader and manager in the industry. He was an Infantryman first, who was responsible for transforming boys into men. He believes in the value of teamwork and instills professionalism into his employees today. “Professionalism comes first, and they are not just ‘city employees,’” notes Ken. Ken’s philosophy also involves the establishment of support systems that consist of trustworthy people in the industry, such as his peers, educators and other industry personnel. “I was taught to be a team player, which evolved into being a team leader. The best advice I’ve been given in the field was to never try to solve problems and issues alone.

There are so many intelligent people in this industry who are willing to help and who you can rely on for expertise,” says Ken. “And to quote former MTA member, Bud Thigpen, ‘The grass is actually brown on the other side,’” he says.

At the municipal level Ken and his team deal mostly with youth sports, which he considers to be the foundation for the development of players from peewee league to professional. He enjoys watching the children mature and grow into well-tuned athletes. “What I like most is that I have the opportunity to provide the best playing surfaces possible for all l levels of play. My team and I pride ourselves on providing safe, playable and aesthetically pleasing sports fields,” Ken says.

Of course there are challenges that come with his territory, including tight budgets and personnel issues that obviously affect everyone. His biggest challenge is educating upper management, operations and the public about maintenance practices and procedures. “Nobody wants to see a ball field closed for maintenance, and our fields are booked constantly throughout the year until they are worn out. It’s then that we really get all the attention!” says Ken.

Ken plays golf occasionally and jokes that his favorite course is wherever he can play for free. His favorite event is the annual Cruisin’ on the Coast car show that takes place in Biloxi. Ken has three cars: a 1966 Mustang, a 1990 Ford Thunderbird, and his recent purchase of a 1972 Cadillac Eldorado convertible that he will debut in the show this coming October. Ken’s number one sports event is Little League World Series baseball. He never misses it and in the near future will be volunteering at the Little League World Series Complex in Pennsylvania.

Ken is a highly decorated military veteran with 22 years of service. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Management from Park College in Parkville, Missouri along with an associate’s degree in Golf and Recreational Turfgrass Management from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He is Past President and current board member of the Mississippi Turfgrass Association, and Sports Turf Management Association member who has served as Chairman of the Scholarship Committee for the past four years,

is Adjutant in the American Legion Post 228, and a member of Shriner Temple No. 148 in Gulfport. Ken’s proudest honor and accomplishment in the Turfgrass industry was becoming the first Certified Sports Field Manager in the state of Mississippi in 2005.

Ken and his beautiful wife, Priscilla, reside in Gulfport and have been married for 28 years. They are blessed with twins! Keair, age 22, is a senior at Mississippi State University and majoring in Agronomy with a specialty in Sports Field Management. Their daughter, Kendra, (22), is also a senior at State and majoring in Microbiology with a Specialty in Pre-Pharmacy. Way to go, Keair and Kendra!

We want to thank you, Ken, for your service in our nation’s military! We are grateful for your commitment in our chapter and can’t wait for this year’s Deep South Turf Expo. You will make a terrific President.

Categories: test feeds

Soils drying; time to core cultivate?

April 26, 2016

Soils are starting to dry. The playing surface has been used for three weeks. I think I am getting some surface compaction. Should I core cultivate?

It depends! Right now can be a great time for the right type of cultivation to address compaction. First the drying soils across the region will warm rapidly now. The soils will be very receptive to cultivation that will result in soil disruption and fracturing, creating more air filled soil pores that offers roots a welcome growing environment. There are variety of tools and tines available for these purposes listed on our Safe Sports Fields website (http://safesportsfields.cals.cornell.edu/cultivating). At this time of year sports fields and native soils are effectively and quickly cultivated using slicing or shatter-blading. This allows for deeper fracturing without significantly disrupting the surface, such as with hollow or even solid tines. More disruption can also lead to more weeds if active growth is not underway, nutrient needs are not being met, or soils are excessively wet to promote weed germination. Of course seeding at this time is also a good practice.

The base 50 Growing Degree Days (GDD) are piling up now. I see dandelions in various stages of bloom. Is it time for my Spring Broadleaf “Three-Way” herbicide?

The first answer to a Spring perennial broadleaf herbicide application is that it is always better to apply these materials to perennial broadleaf weeds in the late summer early Fall. At that time, plants are producing and moving energy from leaves to storage organs like tap roots and stolons and the herbicide can move with them for more thorough control. At this time of year many plants are maintaining most of the energy above-ground to sustain top growth, some will translocate down. Our FORECAST website identify ideal times for applying any herbicide product containing 2,4-D in either an ester or amine formulation. In general ester formulations are designed to penetrate cuticle more effectively, are often effective earlier than amine forms, and can volatilize when applied at air temps above 80F. Amines are more soluble and effective later than esters and are “safer” to apply with lower risk of vapor drift that might injure adjacent ornamentals. All this said, the current model is indicating the ideal period for 2,4-D ester is now for the next week from NYC south, ideal amine timing still a few weeks off.- From Dr. Frank Rossi’s blog shortCUTTS, http://blogs.cornell.edu/turf/

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Intel diving into sports tech with new gadgets

April 26, 2016

Sports are getting a big injection of technology this year from chip-making giant Intel.

The Santa Clara company, better known for the chips that power PCs and data centers, is charging into the sports world by providing the engineering for some revolutionary gadgets.

It’s part of a trend that began with step-counting smart bracelets and has exploded into innovative technology that is expected to make a difference in how people view or take part in sports. Some of it will find its way into the homes of sports fans this year, while other innovations are still being prototyped.

Among the latest gadgets that are or will be powered by Intel:

– A kind of 3-D technology that lets TV or PC viewers see a play from any angle.

– A button-sized module that athletes and viewers can use to track an athlete’s performance.

– A virtual reality headset, still in prototype, that someday may let a viewer virtually walk around on a sports field to view a play from any angle.

– Smart eyeware from glasses maker Oakley with built-in audio and sensors that coaches users during a cycling or running workout, with advice on performance and running and pedaling techniques.

– A digital sports watch, with the athletic shoe company New Balance.

– Last, but not least, high-performance computing and data analytics for sports medicine.

“Getting all this information is great, but at some point, telling people how many steps they took is not very useful,” said Steve Holmes, vice president of smart device innovation at Intel. “You need to do something with it to help them improve their outcomes.”

Two items that have gotten Intel some attention recently are a technology called freeD and a tiny module called the “Curie.”

The Curie is a complete system in a package, with sensors, computing and connectivity. It is about the size of a button, battery included.

“We can provide an end-to-end digital experience that can transform sports,” Holmes said. “We can put a Curie right on an athlete, design the radio that takes information off it and hands it to the cloud, take the information from the servers and write the software to turn it into meaningful information.”

The module was demonstrated in January during the men’s Snowboard Slopestyle Final competition at the X Games Aspen. Attached to snowboards, its built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, barometer, GPS and a tiny neural network recorded competitors’ speed, distance, height and g-force as they landed after flipping and corkscrewing through the air. The results were broadcast along with the video on ESPN.

“For the first time, viewers could see how far the athletes were jumping, how much they were rotating, how hard they hit the ground,” Holmes said. “It really will connect the fan to the athlete in a much more fundamental way.”

Intel and Red Bull Media House have announced a partnership to incorporate Curie modules in some of its extreme events such as “free running,” an acrobatic running competition that involves death-defying flips, spins and jumps.

Intel also has been working with a small Dallas company with an office in Newark called Replay Technologies, started four years ago by former Israeli defense rocket scientists who developed a kind of 3-D viewing for selected moments in football, soccer, basketball, baseball and other games.

Replay calls it “freeD.” It’s been around for a couple years, and anyone who watched the Super Bowl or the NBA’s All-Star Weekend on TV would have seen a few freeD clips.

The close collaboration between Intel and Replay “is for them to look into how they can forward the technology,” said Replay spokesman Preston Phillips. “They’ve made a push to be more commercial, to say ‘Hey we’re more than a chip maker, we’re the fun guys.’ ”

Phillips said Intel’s powerful processors are cutting the time it takes to produce a clip. Being able to view a play from any angle you chose on your PC is coming soon in the form of an application that will allow viewers to freeze a play and watch it from any vantage point.

“We don’t have the app out there yet,” because negotiations are still taking place with the leagues, said Jeff Hopper, Intel’s general manager of immersive experiences.

Creating and editing these clips takes a lot of computer power, which is why Intel is involved. Replay places many cameras around the court, diamond or football field, and the number crunching to assemble a freeD slice of a game takes place on Intel’s servers.

“We’ve installed systems in (selected) stadiums for all the leagues,” said Hopper. One is Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. At each location, a dozen or so clips will be posted online for each game.

“The leagues are interested in the system for future officiating,” he said. “It gives you unlimited views anywhere on the field, for any play. You can see both the ball in the glove and the foot on the bag simultaneously” and spin the view to see it from any angle.

Down the road, Intel is experimenting with a virtual reality device that would allow the fan to literally freeze the action and walk around on the field.

“If you wanted to go right out into the middle of the field and look at the play as if you were the quarterback, you can do that. The data is super-huge, but it’s the kind of problem we love to solve,” Hopper said.- Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

Follow Pete Carey at Twitter.com/

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University looks for public money to upgrade facilities

April 26, 2016

In an effort to upgrade track and field facilities at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, university staff on Monday morning formally asked the Wilmington City Council to consider joining a partnership to fund the project.

“The university and the city we’ve been working together for many, many years,” UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli said.

Sartarelli said UNCW is looking to upgrade its track and field facilities through a quadrilateral agreement among the city, New Hanover County, UNCW and private donors.- Star-News (Wilmington, NC)

Read it all here

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Confirm potassium levels with tissue testing

April 19, 2016

The turf Twitter-verse has been a buzz of whether to soil or tissue test for potassium (K). I’ve attached an article written by Dr. Doug Soldat on the matter. His argument to use tissue testing instead of soil testing for potassium are sound and are rooted in current science. Follow him on Twitter at @djsoldat.
-Bill Kreuser, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Over the past several years, the picture of how to best manage potassium has come into focus. In the early 2000s, researchers (notably Drs. Wayne Kussow and Frank Rossi) showed that soil test potassium requirements for growing healthy turf were much lower than previously thought. Potassium has been labeled a stress nutrient, a fitting label given that plants low in potassium will often show a stress response long before a general decline in color or growth will occur. For example, low potassium in annual bluegrass has been shown to lead to increased winterkill and anthracnose. Interestingly, snow mold damage (pink and gray) is worse when potassium levels are high.

There are two ways to measure the potassium status of your turf: soil tests and tissue tests. Soil tests are meant to approximate the plant availability for good growth over a season or even multiple seasons. In general, the current research shows that if you soil levels of potassium (as measured by the Mehlich-3 method) are above 40 ppm then adding potassium is not required to achieve a healthy turf. However, the picture painted by turfgrass researchers is showing that potassium fertility is more complicated and I feel strongly that tissue testing for potassium is now the best course of action for optimum results.

For most situations, experts recommend soil testing over tissue testing because tissue nutrient levels will fluctuate while soil levels remain fairly stable. However, it is for precisely this reason that I recommend you tissue test – we want to control
and manage the fluctuations within the year.

Conveniently, annual bluegrass and creeping bentgrass have different requirements for potassium, allowing you to customize your potassium program to manage for the grass you want to keep.

Maintaining Healthy Bentgrass at the Expense of Annual Bluegrass: If you have a majority bent stand, you can take one of two approaches. The first would be to maintain your tissue levels around 1.5% year round. These levels can be achieved when soil test potassium levels are relatively low

(~50 ppm) and you add no extra potassium during the year. Bentgrass has shown to have good quality and performance at 1.5% tissue levels of potassium, where annual bluegrass will suffer from anthracnose and low temperature kill at these levels. If this approach scares you a bit, you can add potassium in a 1:1 ratio with N in the spring and summer, and then take the potassium away in August so the levels can drop before winter, leaving the annual bluegrass more susceptible to winter injury.

Maintaining Healthy Annual Bluegrass

If your surfaces have significant Poa populations, the research indicates that you want to keep you potassium tissue levels above 2% for the entire year. This will help ward off anthracnose in the summer and minimize low temperature kill over winter. You may find that your soil levels are high enough that you can get tissue levels of 2% without adding more potassium. However, if your tissue levels are lower than 2%, Dr. Kussow’s research shows that the best way to get potassium into the leaf is to add nitrogen at the same time. I like to spoon-feed potassium along with nitrogen in about a 1: 1 ratio.

How to Test Your Tissue for Potassium

Sampling once in the spring, summer, and fall will be sufficient to check on and adjust (if necessary) your potassium level of your turf. Having a very clean sample is key for ensuring accurate results. Just a few sand grains included in your tissue can really throw off the analysis. For this reason, it’s important that you put your clipping sample in a bucket of water and gently stir. The sand and other debris will sink to the bottom and the clippings will remain on the surface. Take a handful of the clippings out of the bucket and squeeze dry them before spreading them thinly over a newspaper or paper towel to dry for 24 hours or so. If the clippings remain wet, they will continue to decay and your nutrient analysis may be erroneous. Put the dried clippings in a paper bag marked with the appropriate label (F1 for #1 fairway, G5 for #5 green, etc.). The bagged clippings should be sealed well by folding the paper bag over and stapling it shut or by rolling the excess bag around the sample and securing the bag with a rubber band. The samples can be shipped to your preferred analytical laboratory for analysis.

Doug Soldat, Associate Professor, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Completing an internship this summer?

April 19, 2016

If you are completing an internship this summer, remember that you could be eligible to win a grant! The Gary Vanden Berg Internship Grant is intended to help offset the costs a student may have incurred while interning, including, but not limited to, transportation, lodging, and food, or as a subsidy to wages. In addition to receiving the $1,000 grant, the winner will also receive a full conference registration and three night’s lodging at the next STMA National Conference and Exhibition.

If you are hosting an internship this summer, remind your interns about this grant!

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Groundskeeper confident that Toronto FC and Argos can share BMO Field

April 19, 2016

Toronto FC head groundskeeper Robert Heggie has a message to any TFC fans gritting their teeth over sharing BMO Field with the CFL Argonauts.

“I’ve always said there’s one person in Toronto that should be worried about this and it’s me. And I’m not overly worried about it,” Heggie said.

“So if I’m not worried, everyone can just simmer down a little bit and let’s see what happens in June,” he added.

Toronto FC opens at home May 7 while the Argos kick off their regular-season schedule June 23.

Like Snoop Dogg, Heggie knows his grass.

In 2015, he was Sports Turf Canada’s turf manager of the year. Heggie, who studied horticulture and turf grass management at the University of Guelph, has been TFC’s head groundskeeper for seven seasons and has spent two years preparing for the advent of the Argonauts. He’s talked to peers around the world to pick their brains, from officials at Wembley Stadium to those at MLS and NFL venues.

He acknowledges there will be growing pains, especially in a season with a compressed soccer schedule due to the stadium renovations. Weather, particularly rain around Argo games, will also complicate matters.

But Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns TFC and operates BMO Field, has seemingly spared no option to ensure the ground-sharing works.

“We knew from Day 1 this was going to be a very sensitive subject,” said Bob Hunter, MLSE’s chief project development officer. “Two of the three (MLSE) owners own the Argos, they’re very sensitive to it and Larry (MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum) in particular has been very focused on ensuring we have a very very high-quality TFC pitch.”

A new turf field — the third to grace BMO Field since artificial turf was removed in 2010 — is set to be installed this week, weather permitting. It has a much thicker base and should settle in much quicker and tighter.

It comes in rolls 60 feet by four feet (18 by 1.2 meters) and is laid on 12 inches (30 centimeters) of sand, which covers the heating and aeration system underneath.

“For all argument’s sake, it’s a two-acre golf green,” said Heggie.

The surface starts as Kentucky bluegrass. Heggie’s crew will add in perennial rye grass, which grows better in cooler temperatures as the season wears on.

A backup field is ready and waiting in the Hamilton area if any portions of the BMO surface need replacing. It could be installed within 36 hours — and played on 24 hours later.

A third option is a hybrid field, with natural grass growing around artificial roots to strengthen the turf. That was touted by former MLSE boss Tim Leiweke as the answer to grass problems. But it is less flexible because it is hard to replace, in part or in total.

A hybrid field can also harden.

“We’ve had this (TFC) team for about two years now so I know what they like,” Heggie said, “And I know they don’t like it hard.”

More than $1 million has been invested in grow lights to help keep the grass healthy. BMO Field finally got an exemption to use pesticides, which golf courses, lawn bowling clubs and cricket grounds already had. Heggie says he tries to avoid using them but they are another part of his arsenal.

Heggie has turned to Supaturf, an Australian company that specializes in line-marking systems, for the paint need to lay down the lines for football and the ability to remove them. It’s not cheap but it is effective, says Heggie.

“They won’t tell you the Caramilk secret, obviously on how it actually works,” he said.

But the paint solution contains water and malt, among other ingredients. A remover product that reacts to the paint will be sprayed immediately after the game.

There may be some slight ghosting the next day but it will disappear after that, he says.

In Heggie’s office at the Kia Training Ground, a calendar above his computer shows both the MLS and CFL games. There is plenty of white between the two — enough time to prepare the pitch, MLSE believes.

Repairing damage caused by the Argos is “basic agronomy,” Heggie said. Seeding, watering and fertilization.

The grass will be kept a little higher for CFL games than MLS contests, if timing permits. That grass cut will help remove vestiges of the paint and Heggie says football players like a little more cushion in the grass.

Heggie also has some cosmetic cheats up his sleeve, like a green pigment and green sand that groundskeepers commonly use to touch up the color as needed.

As part of the ongoing renovations to the stadium, two positions for the football goalposts have been installed. While just a yard or so apart, it means the football lines won’t be laid down the same place every game.

All this work and new grass will likely still have to be installed in advance of next season. Heggie says the grass will suffer after being covered for weeks in the lead up to the planned Winter Classic.- Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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University of St. Thomas’ North Athletic Field recognized for quality with multi-use capabilities

April 19, 2016

The University of St. Thomas’ North Athletic Field and Koch Diamond were recognized as the Minnesota Park and Sports Turf Managers Association (MPSTMA) 2015 Field of the Year on March 9 during the association’s spring workshop in St. Paul. The annual award, sponsored by Turfco Manufacturing, recognizes a Minnesota athletic facility for outstanding maintenance, aesthetics and overall playing conditions.

“It’s pretty busy from when the snow’s gone to when the snow flies,” said Roger Weinbrenner, certified sports field manager and turf technician for the Tommies’ athletic facilities, who accepted the award.

Weinbrenner has cared for the majority of the college’s three athletic fields, which have a mix of synthetic and natural turf, throughout the last 15 years, with occasional help from groundskeepers or students. He submitted an application for the award to highlight the uniqueness of the events held at the collegiate field alongside varsity sports.

“To finally get a submission in to win the award is definitely a great honor,” Weinbrenner said. “I appreciate greatly what Turfco has done with supporting this. I think it brings a little more recognition to some of the great facilities we have here in Minnesota.”

The North Athletic Field services St. Thomas’ baseball team, which received national titles in 2001 and 2009, and the outfield is used for varsity men’s and women’s track and field events including hammer throw, javelin and discus.

“We’ve had a lot of high school or city facilities win around here,” Weinbrenner said. “I thought our field stood out from a stellar pack because of the multiple events we had here last summer.”

Throughout summer 2015, the North Athletic Field hosted track and field events for the National Senior Games, a 19-sport biennial competition for men and women age 50 and over. The field also hosts annual lacrosse camps in June and July, and a football camp affiliated with the Minnesota Vikings. Class A baseball teams use the infield for summer leagues.

The greenspace plays an important role outside of organized athletics, too. Weinbrenner said he sees students on the infield playing pick-up games of ultimate Frisbee or football. When not in use, the North Athletic Field is the largest open greenspace available to students on the campus, and it’s bordered on two sides by student dorms.

“Being a [NCAA] Division III university, academics come first,” Weinbrenner said. “Academics are the main reason they’re here; hopefully athletics enrich their experience at the university and help build better leaders to go forth once they’re done here.”

Weinbrenner said the challenge is keeping the field up around the demands of each sport or event.

“You have to work around the rain and the schedules, it’s quite a few things to juggle,” he said.

Synthetic turf on the infield of Koch Diamond was installed in 2006. Once snow is moved off the surface, it’s ready for play, which has allowed the baseball team to begin practice earlier in the spring. The outfield is natural turf that Weinbrenner aerates frequently to invigorate the grass cover. Paint on the outfield has to be changed for each sport, too, which is often scheduled back-to-back in the summers.

How turf managers overcome challenges is one of the aspects considered by the MPSTMA when choosing a Field of the Year, along with resourcefulness with budget and staff, and the number and type of games and events held at the facility.

“Roger Weinbrenner’s long commitment to the fields he oversees and the students that use them is exemplary, and the North Athletic Field has benefitted generations of students attending the University of St. Thomas,” said Greg Brodd, of Turfco, who presented the Field of the Year plaque to Weinbrenner. “Turfco is proud to sponsor this program and we want to continue spotlighting the work of cities and schools across our home state in supporting the health and wellness of Minnesota’s population.”

For more information on MPSTMA, visit www.mpstma.org. Entry forms are already available for the 2016 Field of the Year, and are due October 15. To learn more about Turfco Manufacturing, visit www.turfco.com.

Categories: test feeds

STMA tackling compensation and they need your input

April 12, 2016

In June, the STMA Membership Committee will be sending out a very important study on compensation. This electronic survey will capture data that will determine if the salary levels of the profession are rising, and if so, by how much. These results will be compared to the 2012 and 2008 surveys, which will provide an important measurement of our industry’s growth.

When you receive the survey, please take 10 minutes to fill it out and contribute to this significant metric. You will be sent a link specific to you (so it cannot be forwarded) and the information you fill in is confidential and anonymous. Only aggregate information will be reported (no state or city data) so that no one person or facility can be identified.

The results will be reported to the membership in July.

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Good interview with Brooks Dodson of the Broncos

April 12, 2016

The same feathery soft hands that once caught touchdown passes for the Piqua High School football team would go on to move metric tons of dirt and sod as one of the nation’s premier sports turf authorities.

And now, one of those hands is being fitted for a Super Bowl ring.

“It’s been pretty incredible — it’s like a dream come true for me,” said Piqua High School graduate Brooks Dodson, Director of Sports Turf and Grounds for the Denver Broncos. “Since I came back to the team in April of 2013, the team has been to two Super Bowls and obviously won the last one. I do get an official Super Bowl ring and I get to travel with the team, since I’m considered part of game-day operations.”

Read it all here

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Thoroughbred racing fatalities down, surfaces credited

April 12, 2016

The overall fatality rate for all US races regardless of surface in 2015 was 1.62 fatalities per 1,000 starts, the lowest level recorded since data on catastrophic injuries began to be published in 2009, according to statistics released on Tuesday by The Jockey Club.

The fatality rate was down 14 percent compared with the same rate in 2014, when horses suffered catastrophic injuries at the rate of 1.89 per 1,000 starts. The rate declined in 2015 on all three types of racing surfaces, with significant declines in the rates for dirt and turf racing, which have long had much higher fatality rates than synthetic surfaces.

Read more here

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A big Thank You from STMA during National Volunteer Week

April 12, 2016

STMA thanks its more than 200 volunteers who help to make the association vibrant and relevant through serving on committees, task groups, councils and our Board.

National Volunteer Week, organized by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, mobilizes millions of people to take action and change the world. This year’s theme, Celebrate Service, captures the meaning of this signature week: honoring the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities.

Thank you to the entire sports field management community for your continued support and commitment to advancing the profession.

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Why does it cost $9 million to rehab a few ball fields?

April 5, 2016

If $9 million sounds like a lot of money to rehabilitate a few ball fields, you’re probably not wrong.

Staten Island (NY) Borough President James Oddo and City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo are putting up a combined $6 million to rehab the General Douglas MacArthur Park ball fields across from the public Berry Houses in Dongan Hills, with $3 million coming from the city through a FEMA grant.

Oddo called the Parks Department price tag “exorbitant” and expressed frustration that so much of the $9 million is budgeted for “soft costs” — project contingency, design contingency, construction supervision and construction contingency make up 28 percent of the figure.

See here for cost breakdown

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Top training in turfgrass science for your employees

April 5, 2016

Are you in need of training for new employees and seasonal employees? Use STMA’s On-Line Turfgrass Science Curriculum! The online tool provides self-paced learning opportunities that can be utilized for training individuals new to the turfgrass industry. Five units introduce learners to turfgrass growth, development, and anatomy, soils, cultural practices, and turfgrass establishment. Invest in your employees’ education to improve your fields and facility.

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New AD survey shows strong facilities investment & focus on the fan experience

April 5, 2016

A survey of college Athletic Directors by the Ohio University Center for Sports Administration in Athens, and AECOM, a global leader in sports venue design and construction, reveals new insight into the facility investment plans of NCAA programs across the U.S. Of those participating, nearly all (99 percent) said they plan to invest more than US$500,000 in athletic facilities over the next five years, and half (50 percent) plan to invest at least US$25m in that time.

Athletic Directors who participated in the survey perceive fan amenities to be of increasing importance to the game day experience, while training facilities and locker rooms remain top priorities for attracting recruits, with a growing emphasis on academic spaces.

The survey was administered in November 2015 to 87 NCAA Athletic Directors from 25 Division I conferences. It is a follow-up to a survey conducted in 2014.

Since the first survey, the percentage of Athletic Directors planning to invest more than US$10m in facilities over the next 12 months has risen from 31 percent to 38 percent. The percentage of Athletic Directors planning to invest more than US$50m over the next five years has risen from 21 percent to 29 percent.

Drew Berst, Director of Business Development, Sports, AECOM, said, “The data shows some of the unique challenges collegiate athletic programs face. Athletic directors are in the precarious position of needing facilities that serve multiple constituencies. Our data shows that athletic departments are increasingly investing in student-athlete education, and are seeking to maximize the revenue potential of their venues so they can rely less on university and public funding to support their programs.”

Dr. Heather Lawrence, Associate Professor of Sports Administration and the AECOM Professor of Sport Business at Ohio University, advised, “This investment in growth is associated with a shift toward support for student-athletes. We’re seeing increased focus on the value of investment in the student-athlete experience both on the field and academically.”

In the current survey, Athletic Directors perceived fan amenities (connectivity, food and beverage, premium seating, public space, transportation) to be more important across the board than in 2014, with concessions and premium seating ranked highest.

In 2015, Terry Mohajir, Director of Athletics at Arkansas State University, guided a major upgrade of Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, part of an effort to elevate the program nationally and appeal to fans. The renovation included improved suite offerings and concessions.

Mohajir said, “Not only has the renovation enhanced the game day experience for all Arkansas State fans, it has also allowed us to develop new relationships. When we began this project, we had a vision for a final product that would go above and beyond anyone’s expectations — and that was exactly the outcome.”

For attracting recruits, Athletic Directors ranked practice and training facilities higher than locker rooms, academic space, lounges and cafeterias, housing and sports medicine in importance. The importance of academic facilities rose since the 2014 survey.

Reflecting this trend, the University of Arizona broke ground on a new academic center on February 12.

Greg Byrne, Director of Athletics at the University of Arizona, said, “The C.A.T.S. Academic Center will provide a dedicated academic space to challenge and support our student-athletes. This building will house space for life skills, sports psychology and personal development services, areas that are crucial to the growth of student-athletes. AECOM designed a space that maximized programming and budget, and will help all student-athletes reach their full potential.”

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When to apply spring PREs and nitrogen

April 5, 2016

What a difference 2 weeks makes; Nebraska weather never disappoints. The 4-inch soil temperatures were in the mid-fifties, which is the typical trigger to apply PREs for crabgrass. In fact, we were noticing some crabgrass germination in areas near sidewalks and driveways around Lincoln. Since then, a major snowstorm and dramatic temperature decline have reduced soil temperatures back into the lower forties across much of the states. Any annual grassy weeds that did germinate were likely killed by the hard freeze. If you did not get a PRE out before the cold, then wait until soil temperatures warm back into the mid-fifties. Preemergence herbicides applied before the cold snap will still be effective, but the early timing will require a second application in early June to sustain control throughout the entire season. Make sure the second application doesn’t exceed the maximum annual use rate for the PRE. That information can be found on the label (commonly in bold font).

It is best to apply a standalone PRE instead of a PRE + N fertilizer combination product in early spring. Warm and wet weather plus soil N mineralization causes the turfgrass to grow rapidly by mid-April. This is one reason a rarely fertilized turfgrass stand looks good immediately after green-up. Early spring fertilization will further accelerate growth and make it difficult to keep up with mowing. It can also deplete sugar reserves that are used to help with summer stress and rooting. For a well-established turf stand, wait until the turfgrass quality starts to decline in late spring to early summer. This typically occurs from mid-May until mid-June. Use of a combo PRE and N fertilizer product make sense during that time.

Like everything, there are a few exceptions where early spring N fertilization can be helpful. For example, turf stands like athletic fields that will receive traffic can benefit from light amounts of spring N to encourage green-up. Young or thin stands of turf can also benefit from added spring fertilization. The goal with these stands is to promote density going into summer. Even consider a starter fertilize on areas that were seeded last fall to accelerate establishment if the area is still thin. Use low rates of soluble fertilizer with all of these early spring applications to prevent excessive top growth.-Bill Kreuser, Assistant Professor, Extension Turfgrass Specialist, wkreuser2@unl.edu

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International Resources

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