Certified Golf Course Superintendent Pat Gradoville joins efforts to launch a new turfgrass research foundation in California.
California was one of the few states in the nation that had no statewide organization to support turf and landscape research.
Until now, that is.
Palos Verdes Golf Club
Certified Golf Course Superintendent Pat Gradoville, Director of Golf Course and Grounds at Palos Verdes (Calif.) Golf Club, is one of the industry leaders in the state who is helping to launch the California Turfgrass & Landscape Foundation. The nonprofit organization is designed to unify efforts to support and fund research efforts in the Golden State.
“Everyone with a lawn or garden should be a member of this organization,” Gradoville says.
The new foundation will raise funds and support vital research projects that will benefit industry-wide stakeholders throughout California in the areas of turfgrass, landscape, and related water usage.
As a member of the Board of Directors, Gradoville will be instrumental in ensuring that the organization succeeds. He recently talked to us about his efforts to help launch the foundation.
Q. How did the California Turfgrass & Landscape Foundation get started?
A. The University Of California Riverside had a wing called UCTRAC, which stood for University of California Turfgrass Research Advisory Committee. With budget cuts, UCTRAC was no longer funded. Several people in California saw the need for research, as well as groups such as the United States Golf Association, the Professional Golfers Association, the Northern California Golf Association, the Southern California Golf Association, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP).
Q. What is the purpose of the organization?
A. The mission of the California Turf and Landscape Foundation is to fund and support focused research and educational outreach in the areas of turfgrass, landscape, and related water use for the betterment of the stakeholders, conservation of resources, and sustainability of the environment.
Q. How many members do you have?
A. The Foundation is in its infancy, but we hope that some day every golfer in the state would become a member.
Q. How are the members of the organization expected to contribute to its overall goals?
A. The first step is financial support, which so far has been very good. Once we get up and running, involvement by the members on committees and fundraising will be key.
Q. What kind of research will be funded, and how will it be carried out?
A. The research will vary as requests are reviewed. The Board of Directors will evaluate each proposal to determine which ones have the greatest needs. Obviously, it is driven by the funds available. Bruce Williams [former Director of Golf Courses and Grounds at Los Angeles Country Club] is our Executive Director, and he has been working to contact the various organizations from around the state. We have been successful in the early going in raising funds.
Q. What are some of the challenges that the California turfgrass industry faces as a whole?
A. Water will always be a challenge. We just emerged from a drought, and not many people are thinking about water right now. But it is important to take measures today to become better water users. We need to lead the conservation efforts. There are great tools available that measure moisture content, and with the continued advancement of these tools, we all can benefit from increasing our water conservation efforts.
Another big challenge is to get golfers back to the courses following the economic downturn. The industry is waiting for conditions to improve, as we all are anxious for the recovery to be complete. Play continues to be down compared to five years ago. Many golf courses are cutting expenses to keep the doors open. Those courses will be in a good position once the economy improves and golfers return to play the great game of golf.
Q. What are kind of issues are more prevalent in northern California than in southern California, and vice versa?
A. We share many similar issues, such as increasingly difficult pesticide regulations, water restrictions, and diminishing rounds of golf. Issues in the north often come down this way, as well as go in the other direction.
Q. How can members in the different parts of the state help each other?
A. With a state as large as California, there are great resources to draw from. The Foundation can tap those resources to create something special.
Q. What is the specific role that golf courses play in the Foundation?
A. We will be establishing a Rounds for Research program to raise funds for the organization, and we will hope all of the members will donate rounds of golf at their facilities.
Q. Will the Foundation get involved in government advocacy, or is it strictly set up to support research?
A. Our primary focus will be on research at this point.
Q. What can golf courses learn from other industry stakeholders?
A. There is a lot of information that can be shared. It is valuable to sit at the same table with the air-quality resource boards and the water districts. At the same time, developing the relationships will go a long way for long-term partnerships.
Q. Tell us about some of the research projects that are underway, such as the study at UC Riverside.
A. The turfgrass research program at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) focuses on three major areas: water, salinity, and pest management. Where possible and practical, Californians are being urged to convert from cool-season to warm-season turf for water conservation. UCR research has demonstrated that eradication of the existing stand of cool-season turf is critical for establishment of warm-season grasses that, on average, require 20 percent less water.
Weed management is another important aspect of successful transition. Several new herbicides are being evaluated for weed control in newly established warm-season turf.
Use of drought-tolerant, warm-season grasses is largely limited by their winter dormancy. A long-term goal of the UCR turfgrass program is to develop a warm-season turfgrass that stays green year-round. In the meantime, UCR is also taking the approach to keep cool-season turfgrasses green in the summer months with less water. Hybrids between fescue and ryegrass are under development by UCR for improved drought and heat tolerance. Benefitting from cutting-edge cell biology research ongoing at UCR, researchers are moving toward engineering turfgrass whereby abiotic stress tolerance mechanisms can be triggered using commonly used protectants for biotic pests.
Q. How will your research efforts unify the turfgrass industry?
A. Anything that affects turf usually affects the landscape, and vice versa. It is the hope of the Foundation that the research will benefit both the turfgrass industry as well as the landscape industry.
Q. What will it take for golf courses to comply with the state mandate to reduce water usage by 20 percent by 2020?
A. This is already being done by the 35 golf courses within the DWP area in the city of Los Angeles. This program will be a model for everyone to follow, as there has been great success.
Q. What is your role as a member of the Board of Directors?
A. Initially, the role is to get the organization up and running. That is nearly complete, and the next step will be to raise funds. That will never be completed! Lastly, the role would be to determine which research projects to support.
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