An immediate sign an event is a big deal: police officers lurk on a busy road, stopping, guiding and redirecting traffic during a peak travel time.
The 2019 NC State Turfgrass Field Day, held on a steamy August day at the Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Research Lab, resembled a college football game or county fair, with cars parking in a field and attendees hailing from multiple states. The show-and-tell led by NC State’s talented turf team brought hundreds of vehicles (mostly trucks) to a quiet section of Raleigh.
But the event proved something deeper than what results spotted on plots can reveal: effective university research requires a major commitment from industry partners. A quartet of NC State researchers and officials – associate professor Dr. Jim Kerns, associate deans Dr. Steve Lommel and Dr. Rich Bonanno, and Lake Wheeler lab manager Marty Parish – displayed gratitude in their opening remarks. With two-dozen dedicated colleagues standing in the background and more than 500 coffee-sipping attendees occupying the foreground, the quartet spoke behind a sign listing 34 companies and associations who support NC State’s research efforts.
The annual field day demonstrates how resources provided by supporters are being utilized. NC State professors and researchers led presentations on 15 topics, including disease management, deciphering glyphosate myths and the results of trials combining fraise mowing with aerification. Only the least attentive superintendents, sports turf managers and landscape professionals left Lake Wheeler without a tactic or two they could use on the job.
The presence of university leaders at a field day allow individuals who benefit from university research to communicate why turf programs are vital to the community. Although Lommel and Bonnano described triumphs within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, including $50 million in grant activity and the looming opening of a $160 million Plant Sciences building, in their field day remarks, turf researchers at nearly every university display concern when discussing long-range funding.
Still, optimism permeated throughout Lake Wheeler last month. The Environmental Institute for Golf’s Rounds 4 Research has boosted research efforts at multiple universities, including NC State. Cameron Stephens, a research assistant funded through the program, described his work with disease management in tall fescue at the field day. Stephens also has collaborated with Kerns and Dr. Travis Gannon on research involving fungicide movement following mowing and irrigation treatments.
The more research universities such as NC State can fund, the more reason police officers will be needed at future field days. Who says a little traffic is a bad thing?