Polar temperatures combined with ice this past winter left turf areas in mid- through southeastern Michigan with a large amount of winterkill damage. The destruction is seen on putting greens and other turf areas. The harsh winter weather has had an impact on the turfgrass industry resulting in potential business losses.

“Golf course superintendents not only have to resolve the issue of re-establishing the greens by purchasing seed, fertilizer and covers, but they also may lose revenue from golfers not playing the course, and also losses in food and beverage sales,” said Michigan State Univ. (MSU) AgBioResearch scientist Kevin Frank.

The turfgrass industry faces the challenge of the best way to solve the current problem and to prevent similar damage in the future. Because of limited information on winter damage, the MSU Turfgrass team and board members of the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation (MTF) have agreed to obtain a low-temperature growth chamber to help investigate new findings.

The MSU Turfgrass team consists of 9 faculty members focused on research, extension and teaching in the areas of turfgrass science that include golf courses, athletic fields, home lawns, sods and commercial properties. The MTF is a nonprofit organization that supports MSU research for better turfgrass maintenance methods.

“The partnership between MSU and the MTF is very strong and effective,” said director of MSU AgBioResearch Doug Buhler. “Together, we are able to promptly respond to this major industry issue and provide scientific insight that will help golf course superintendents throughout Michigan. It’s another example of how industries have come to trust and rely on MSU for research solutions to meet their needs.”

Emily Merewitz, AgBioResearch scientist, said there is a great need for research facilities, such as this growth chamber, to support research on extreme weather tolerance of cool-surface turfgrass species.

“A low-temperature growth chamber can imitate harsh winter conditions in a controlled setting so that researchers can investigate topics such as ice damage, cold acclimation and de-acclimation, and other issues related to winterkill damage year-round.”

Based on this research, the MSU Turfgrass team and the MTF hope to identify ways in which superintendents can minimize winterkill injury in the future.