CLEMSON – Clemson turfgrass specialist Bert McCarty is joining researchers across the United States to lay waste to turfgrass enemy Poa annua, commonly called Poa, while he grooms the next generation of turfgrass experts.

Bert McCarty, Clemson professor of turfgrass management, talks to participants in 2019 Turfgrass Field Day.

Bert McCarty, Clemson professor of turfgrass management, talks to participants about turfgrass enemy Poa annua during 2019 Poa Control Field Day.
Image Credit: Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

McCarty is part of a group embarking on a $5.6 million USDA project to determine how to limit the impacts of the herbicide-resistant weed Poa annua in athletic, golf, lawn and sod farm turfgrass. This project involves 16 university researchers in 15 states. A website, www.resistpoa.org, has been created where information about the project can be accessed.

Poa annua is a weed that has become herbicide-resistant,” McCarty said during the recent Clemson Poa Control Field Day. “In this project, we are going to characterize the nationwide distribution of herbicide-resistant Poa annua. We’re also going to study the weed’s biology and growth characteristics in an effort to develop non-chemical control strategies, as well as any socio-economic constraints that may affect these control strategies and use of new herbicide technologies. We’ve also created Best Management Practices (BMPs) for effective herbicide-resistant management of Poa annua.

Poa annua, or annual bluegrass, is a cool-season grass that spreads by seed. It has smooth leaves with boat-shaped tips and produces greenish white seedheads that are a problem mainly during spring when golf season is going strong. To help McCarty tackle problems this and other pests bring turfgrass is a team of highly qualified Clemson students.

The Clemson Turfgrass Team

One student assisting McCarty is Bobby Kerr from Scotland – a major golf country. Kerr graduated from Clemson this spring with a doctorate in turfgrass management. He already has a job as director of turfgrass programs for the Chicago District Golf Association and believes having studied under McCarty will be quite beneficial as he enters this new phase of his life.

Bobby Kerr, a doctoral student in turfgrass management, talks about natural control options for Poa annua during the 2019 Clemson Turfgrass Field Day.

Bobby Kerr, a Clemson doctoral student, talks about natural control options for Poa annua during the 2019 Clemson Poa Control Field Day.
Image Credit: Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

“Dr. McCarty has an internationally recognized turfgrass Extension and research program,” Kerr said. “I’ve been on Extension visits with Dr. McCarty and have gotten to experience the way in which to interact with golf course superintendents and give advice in a professional manor. During my graduate studies at Clemson I’ve conducted a number of research trials for industry and have been exposed to the level of professionalism required to conduct high quality research.”

In his new role, Kerr wants to develop an internationally recognized Extension and research program.

“Questions that come from the superintendents of the Chicago District Golf Association will drive the research program,” Kerr said. “Within my role, I hope to provide a world-class turfgrass program that actively involves the superintendents.”

During the field day, Kerr talked about natural control options for Poa annua. Treatments are a combination of household products or bioherbicides. Examples include:

  • White vinegar, lemon juice and Dawn dish detergent;
  • Alcohol and Dawn dish detergent;
  • Clove oil and Dawn dish detergent, and
  • Baking soda and Dawn dish detergent.

Another Turfgrass Team member from across the pond is Philip Brown a post-doctoral researcher from England. During the field day, Brown talked about using plant growth regulators, or PGRs, to reduce mowing frequency and maintenance. Brown also talked about the tolerance of warm season turfgrasses to copper and zinc.

Philip Brown, a Clemson post-doctoral researcher, talks about using plant growth regulators on golf courses to reduce mowing frequency and maintenance.

Philip Brown, a Clemson post-doctoral researcher, talks about using plant growth regulators on golf courses to reduce mowing frequency and maintenance.
Image Credit: Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

“These two heavy metals are used in several paint and screening products,” Brown said. “My study is designed to investigate potential problems that may arise from long term application of these products.”

Being a post-doctoral researcher, Brown has been involved in Clemson’s turfgrass program as both an educator and a student.

“The Clemson program provides a second to none education for students, with experienced and knowledgeable instructors,” Brown said. “The ability to learn from Dr. McCarty, who is one of the highest regarded members of this industry, cannot be underestimated. I have learned a great deal about not just turfgrass, but how to handle myself as a professional, which I believe will be extremely beneficial as I progress in my career.”

Silas Ledford, a master’s student from Dalton, Georgia, is studying seedhead development in Diamond Zoysiagrass.

“Diamond zoysiagrass is a great turfgrass,” Ledford said. “It has superior shade tolerance and increased cold tolerance over ultradwarf bermudagrass currently used for putting greens. We project it to be more viable in the future and have a very strong niche market.”

Silas Ledford, a Clemson master's student, talks about seedhead development in Diamond Zoysiagrass.

Silas Ledford, a Clemson master’s student, talks about seedhead development in Diamond Zoysiagrass.
Image Credit: Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

In addition to seedhead development, Ledford also is studying the effects of plant growth regulators on Diamond Zoysiagrass putting greens. His focus is on turf qualities, seedhead development, root mass, ball roll and clipping yield. It’s this type of experiential learning Ledford believes will help him once he graduates.

“My experience at Clemson has been above and beyond my expectations,” Ledford said. “I’ve enjoyed learning under Dr. McCarty’s expertise as well as hands-on in the field. My future career will greatly benefit from all the people and lessons I’ve learned while a student at Clemson.”

Nate Gambrell from Pendleton is McCarty’s technician. He graduated from Clemson with a bachelor’s in turfgrass management and a master’s in plant and environmental sciences. Being involved in Clemson’s turfgrass program as a student and, now, as an employee, has allowed Gambrell to take part in many aspects of the turf industry.

“It has given me the opportunity to learn and work in the golf course industry, sports turf industry, residential and commercial turf care, sod farm industry and, currently, in the university research aspect of herbicide development,” Gambrell said. “As an employee, I enjoy helping end users troubleshoot and solve turf and weed science problems, as well as assist and watch graduate students complete their thesis and dissertation projects and grow into the start of their own careers. It has been very rewarding.”

During the field day, Gambrell presented field trials on new herbicides for control of broadleaf weeds in both warm and cool season turf.  He also presented a trial on new herbicides for control of sedges and killings.

Nate Gambrell, a Clemson turfgrass technician, talks about field trials on new herbicides for control of broadleaf weeds in warm and cool season turfgrasses.

Nate Gambrell, a Clemson turfgrass technician, talks about field trials on new herbicides for control of broadleaf weeds in warm and cool season turfgrasses.
Image Credit: Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

“For most golf course superintendents or landscape professionals, coming to a field day and looking at plots exposes them to new products on the market, and potentially new tools they can add to their toolboxes,” Gambrell said. “These field day demos also allow the chemical company to discuss details and advocate their new products as well. A lot of people benefit from attending events such as this.”

Tim Krieger, executive director of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association, agrees.

“We are so fortunate to have someone with Bert’s expertise leading the turfgrass program here at Clemson,” Krieger said. “No matter what type of problem we may have with turfgrass, on any of our courses, we know we can call Bert and get the matter resolved. We are so lucky to have a first-class turfgrass program like the one here at Clemson that we can call anytime to get the answers and information we specifically need for our golf courses.”

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