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Getting ready for a new turf research season


Wow, it is hard to follow Frank's April Fools Extravaganza. I need to get some of that Armageddon.

The detailed synopsis of March Madness was impressive. However, I am wondering if anyone else has worked or been a student at as many March Madness schools as I have? I was an undergrad at Wisconsin, grad student at Cornell, postdoc at Michigan State, and now I work at Kansas State. Part of my collegiate fashion collection is below. Just call me March Madness Barbie. Anybody else got four? :)

On the turf side, there is not too much exciting disease to report on, but I have been busy thinking about the upcoming field season. The other day I headed out to our turfgrass research facility to think about where to put plots, etc. I found some interesting things.

Though we often cause turf problems on purpose in order to study them, we are not without our share of unintentional turf problems. For example, we have had some thatch issues here in this plot area, and the thatch seems to have led to some winterkill. Each spring, in the diagnostic lab, I get a few samples of turf that experienced winterkill due to overly thick thatch, usually from Kentucky bluegrass home lawns.

A few freeze/thaw cycles have heaved some of our plot markers out of the ground. Fortunately, enough markers remain intact so we can find our correct plots again:

In 2009 we grew a 5-foot tall “living windbreak” out of sorghum-sudangrassto try to decrease airflow in a brown patch study area. Since brown patch thrives in humid areas where dew accumulates we were trying to block drying winds.Well, it appears that some creatures moved into the windbreak area and have been enjoying it all winter:

And, for all you city-folk:

Speaking of creatures, our favorite turf research facility neighbors are out in their pasture just over the fence. They like to watch us, and sometimes they have helpful comments on the nuances of experimental design. Several of them are fistulated (Frank, try to keep a straight face, that is really what it is called) meaning there is an intentional hole (with a removable plug) to allow access to the rumen. This is usually associated with a research institution so I am guessing the KSU vet school or animal science department has something to do with it, perhaps a feed efficiency study.

Since by now you are all very curious, for information on how to properly explore a cow rumen you can visit this website:

My main squeeze, Kris, works at the KSU vet school and he sometimes leads tours of school kids who have the opportunity to reach into the rumen and pull out some contents. Some of these kids say they want to be vets… until they can’t quite handle the thought of being up to their elbows or shoulder in a cow rumen! It’s a reality check that going to vet school isn’t all about fluffy kittens.

3 Responses to “Getting ready for a new turf research season”

Anonymous said...


The tunnels look like voles. We get them in seed production fields and on the research farm. They are particularly fond of bentgrass fields. The kids who want to be big animal vets often end up with cuddly dogs. My uncle was a specialist in large animals until the area they lived in became more suburban and the dogs and cats paid a lot more.

Leah A. Brilman

Brandon said...

Megan, nice work on your schools, for me, I am in a similar boat- I have had conflicts for the last two games (and the one this evening): First it was Univ. of Tennessee vs. The Ohio State University, then it was Univ. of Tennessee vs. Michigan State, now its Butler vs. Michigan State. So I have had 4 schools in the dance, 3 in the Sweet 16 (and Joey, only because they were all in the same bracket did one of mine get left out...) and 2 in the Final Four.

Nice post!

Brandon said...

Oh yeah- I agree with Leah that those areas look like voles. I used to see vole damage in the areas where snow would collect @ MSU. How does the sorghum sudangrass work out for you for a windbreak? We have a few areas at our farm that I would like to reduce wind on and that type of planting might just be the ticket!


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