0 Myerscough College - Realising Research Potential

The BSc (Hons) course in Sportsturf Science and Management (formerly called Turfgrass Science), delivered by Myerscough College, is the highest taught academic qualification directly relevant to groundsmen and greenkeepers that can be achieved in the UK at the moment. The course provides the natural progression for students who have previously completed a Foundation Degree or a HND in a related subject; it can be studied as a full-time in-college one year top-up course, or studied as a two year distance-learning course delivered entirely on-line.

Dr Andy Owen is the tutor for the BSc course and delivers two of the modules, and is rightly proud of what successful students achieve. "The college has been running this course for a number of years now and the graduates have proved, time and time again, that they are the innovators and industry leaders of the future."

The college and staff have worked hard to develop a course intended to stretch students academically and also to help to develop them into first class industry professionals.

The highlight of the course is the double module research dissertation, a student led research project during which the student has to conceive, design, implement, manage, analyse and write up their own experimental study.

It is a large undertaking but, over the years, the students have produced some really interesting pieces of work looking at subjects as diverse as: The greenkeeper's approaches to sustainability; Compost teas; The value of foliar vs soil testing; Deficit irrigation and root extension; The use of plant growth regulators in shaded conditions'; PVA glues and cricket loam shrinkage and binding strength; The disturbance theory' and many more.

Three such projects are briefly summarised here.

Do applications of ferrous sulphate reduce the incidence of Michrodocium nivale? (Student: J Oostendorp)

We are all aware of the threat to fine turf quality from fungal diseases such as Michrodocium spp and, whilst chemical controls exist and are very effective, an integrated approach to their management is preferable. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that applications of ferrous sulphate can help to combat the disease and act as a mild fungicide, with two broad modes of action being suggested; the acidifying of the soil surface and the 'hardening' of the leaf. An Honours project was designed to test this theory and try to produce rigorous data that would either support or refute these claims.

A field study was designed, incorporating twenty-seven randomised and replicated 4m x 4m plots on three golf course greens, over thirty weeks from August to March. The greens were similar in construction, grass species composition, and rootzone pH. Six treatment applications of soluble ferrous sulphate at a rate of 10 kg/ha were compared with six industry standard applications of contact and systemic fungicide, and compared with control plots where no applications were made. A number of factors, including disease occurrence, were assessed throughout the trial.

Results indicated that outbreaks of Michrodocium nivale were significantly reduced following applications of soluble ferrous sulphate when compared with the control plots, but were not prevented completely. The standard industry practice, utilising fungicide application, reduced outbreaks to effectively zero.

The study shows that ferrous sulphate reduced disease outbreak and could potentially be used as part of an integrated disease management programme during periods of high disease pressure. This potentially could reduce budget expenditure on fungicides.

Can Lollium perenne utilise applications of sugar? (Student: P Cook)

There are increasing numbers of biostimulants available for use in the sportsturf sector. Making sense of all the sales literature, researching the mode of action and uncovering empirical evidence of their efficacy and value to an existing maintenance programme is not always straightforward.

Within this subject area, the use and application of simple sugars to turf has raised much debate over recent years. Central to the discussion is whether the grass plant can utilise the sugars, or whether they stimulate the rootzone microbial population by releasing nutrients which stimulate plant growth.

A laboratory based study was designed to test this, growing Lollium perenne plants aseptically (under sterile conditions) for 30 days, with applications of sucrose made into the growing medium at four concentrations (0, 1.5%, 3.0% and 4.5%).

A number of assessments were made, but the key measurements were carried out at the end of the trial, recording shoot dry weight and root dry weight.

Shoot and root dry weights were both significantly increased by the application of sucrose to the growing media, with root and shoot extension visibly greater. This suggests that sucrose solution has been taken up by the plant and that applications of simple sugars can be utilised by the plant in isolation from any rootzone micro-organisms.

Measuring consistency between the playing quality of practice putting greens and on-course putting greens? (Student: N Thomas)

This project was conceived when a golfer was overheard, following a round of golf, complaining that the reason he had putted badly was that the putting surfaces on the course were drastically different from the putting surface of the practice green.

The measure of consistency as a playing quality is an important concept, and one that is sometimes forgotten during the measurement and reporting of green speed, firmness and smoothness, all of which have well established and validated measurement techniques.

A study was devised whereby twenty golf courses were visited and the playing quality (green speed, smoothness, firmness, species composition and moisture content) of the practice golf green and of the 18th green were measured and compared. The course managers were interviewed with regards to cultural practices in place on both surfaces, and local environmental conditions preceding the visit were recorded.

The results raised a number of interesting points, but the key finding was that there were only small differences recorded between practice facilities and on-course surfaces, and none of these were statistically significant. For the golf courses in the survey, these differences were minor and would certainly not be easily noticed by your average golfer. The study suggests that the maintenance of the practice putting greens in this study are as rigorous as those of the on course greens.

The BSc Sportsturf Science and Management course has a number of outcomes, but a key component of the dissertation module within this course is to allow the student to understand the process of carrying out research and being able to correctly interpret statistics and trial results. This should allow each student to develop the confidence to question marketing literature and sales staff and so make better informed decisions for sports surface management.

The sportsturf staff and students at Myerscough College are always looking for new products to independently test and new ideas for research projects; please get in touch if you want to discuss further.

Research skills can be further developed by enrolling on an MRes (Masters by research) project. These would need to be independently financed, but allow the opportunity to study a research project for a year, producing a Masters dissertation for examination.

If you are interested in studying on a sportsturf course, Foundation degree, BSc (Hons) or a Masters by research programme, please contact our Course Enquiries Team on 01995 642211 or email enquiries@myerscough.ac.uk

Alternatively, tweet us @myerscoughcoll or follow Myerscough College on Facebook.

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Contact Kerry Haywood

07973 394037

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