Published on 03/21/14

UGA Tifton set to host annual turfgrass conference

By Clint Thompson

The world-class turfgrass research program at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus will be under the microscope during an annual conference set for April 29.

The Southeastern Turfgrass Conference will be held at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. The event is expected to attract industry personnel, sod farmers, landscape professionals, commercial lawn specialists and golf course superintendents.

“I think this conference definitely shows people what has happened in the past and what work is going on in the future to make grasses better and easier for sod growers and turf users,” said Brian Schwartz, a turfgrass breeder with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Schwartz, who is based on the campus in Tifton, will discuss the most recent turfgrass varieties, which will also be on display. The all-day seminar, expected to attract between 150-200 people, will include a discussion of the problems and struggles the turfgrass industry faces, like disease management and herbicide selection.

An extended and more detailed session for the golf course superintendents in attendance has been added to the schedule.

“I think if we can give superintendents a more dedicated session that’s totally specific to the problems they’re facing that won’t be applicable to anyone else, it will improve their experience in Tifton,” Schwartz said.

Clint Waltz, UGA Extension turfgrass specialist based on the Griffin campus, will discuss renovations being made at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.

In addition to CAES turfgrass researchers, experts from Mississippi State, University of Florida, University of Tennessee and Washington D.C. will speak about various turfgrass related topics.

Disease concerns, especially those in the Southeast like large patch and pithium, will also be covered. Specialists will also talk about cultural practices, chemical recommendations and how future turfgrass variety releases will be affected.

Outdoor presentations include a brief tour of renovations to UGA Tifton’s turfgrass program. About three-fourths of the program’s five-plus acres on campus are being transformed to accentuate a world-class research facility.

“As we take students, senators and sod growers to simple research plots, the impact isn’t near what it would be if you create actual settings where the grasses are used,” Schwartz said. “Not that research plots aren’t essential, but if you build a tee box a sports field and a golf green with different grasses on them, we’d have a place where our visitors can envision what the grasses will look like in the real world. That can have a far more reaching impact.”

UGA Tifton turfgrass team is in the process of renovating a portion of their plots into an elevated tee box. Eventually a golfing green, approximately 80 yards away from the teebox, will be constructed to give onlookers an idea of what they could expect the grasses to look like on a golf course. The tee box and green will highlight turfgrass varieties bred at UGA.

In between both elevated plots will be a sports field covered by different experimental turfgrass varieties. Schwartz hopes to get wear and tear on that surface to see how it holds up.

Surrounding the newly-developed turfgrass plots will be a brick walkway, which will also be surrounded by breeder’s plots, ornamentals and citrus trees — all varieties bred at the UGA Tifton Campus.

“It will be a place to showcase all old varieties and tell their history,” Schwartz said, “and a spot to show up-and-coming ones outside of square research plots.”

Schwartz hopes to have the tee box, playing surface and surrounding amenities in place by April, 2015.

The cost to attend is $100, but $10 for student attendees. The conference will begin at 7:15 a.m. with registration and breakfast. The conference will conclude at 5 p.m.

For more information about the turfgrass conference, including how to register, visit

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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