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BYU stadium top example of turf-grass care

BYU stadium top example of turf-grass care

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In case you haven't heard, there is a small rivalry between the Red University in Salt Lake City and the Blue University in Provo.

It will reach its apex at 3 p.m. Saturday with the annual football game that has everyone cheering for their favorites.

The game is being played in LaVell Edwards Stadium, one of the few remaining natural-grass fields at a major university in the state of Utah. The field recently underwent a major renovation where the playing surface and all of the underlay was replaced.

Although many college and pro teams have abandoned natural-turf playing fields, most coaches and players prefer them. They like them because the turf is not as hot, and it is much more forgiving and less likely to injure players.

For some good information on growing turfgrass, I visited with Jim Gish, pest-control foreman for the grounds department at Brigham Young University.

His responsibilities include controlling insects, diseases and other problems, as well as applying fertilizers to the grounds.

Gish has a long history in the green industry. He is native to the Philadelphia area, then went to University of Wisconsin and finally ended up at Utah State University. After working for various farm-supply stores, nurseries and seed companies, he settled on his present position at BYU.

"The sod on the stadium field was laid on April 27th," Gish said. "The sod was trucked in from California, because it was grown on a material that matched the sand base of the field."

Since your lawn is not much like the stadium turf, I next asked Gish to explain how he helps care for the other 250 plus acres on the beautiful showplace campus.

"We grow bluegrass. Our boss, Roy Peterman, loves bluegrass, so we manage that grass very well. We pay attention to fertilization. We fertilize with a slow release fertilizer two times per year.

"We apply our dormant fertilizer starting in October, November and even the first week of December. We apply 1 to 11/4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 feet.

"In the spring, we apply about the same amount of nitrogen, but we usually add a pre-emergent herbicide to help prevent any annual weeds. We use sulfur-coated urea to give us a dark-green color throughout the season."

When I asked about the need to apply iron to keep the lawns green, he explained, "We grow types of bluegrass that have a natural dark-green color, so that is not much of a problem. These different varieties color up in the spring and keep their color into the winter.

"We don't routinely use iron on our turf because our bluegrass is dark enough we don't get much of a response from any iron we apply."

We spend more effort on the trees. We have every tree on our map and database, so we know which ones need iron. We use a Sequestrene 138 product called Irontop 4,8 which is a EDDHA-chelated iron."

"We apply it at the rate of 2 ounces per inch of trunk diameter of the tree. We make our applications starting at the end of February, before the leaves come out."

Other cultural practices are done at the request of the area gardeners. They determine what areas need aeration and oversee the mowing.

Gish supervises insect and disease control on the lawn but stresses that they try to prevent problems by keeping the grass healthy.

"In the three previous years, the only insect problems we had were sod webworm and a minor billbug outbreak, so we do not use preventive treatments."

The same is true of diseases. Gish explained, "While these are disease problems on the sports fields, they are not ever serious on the campus landscape. We almost never see rust, pythium or leaf spot on our regular bluegrass lawns."

The exception is necrotic ringspot, which is troublesome in certain areas. Again, they use good cultural practices and only resort to fungicides when needed.

One final reason the lawns look so good is because of the way the students and faculty treat the lawns.

I well remember former BYU president Ernest L. Wilkinson instructing students that the university had provided many sidewalks for moving from one place to the other and the lawns were not shortcuts.

I have recently heard the update to his admonition is: "Real Cougars don't cut corners," meaning they do not cut across the lawns.

That would be good advice to keep the grass looking good at many other schools, churches, public buildings and retail areas.

I didn't pressure Gish for a prediction on the outcome of the game, but regardless of the score, the grass will take a beating

Gish will then assist the field manager and others in getting ready for the spring Blue and White game and other events next year.

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Larry A. Sagers


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