CALS Science Keeps Fairways Green With Less Water

Friday, July 26, 2013

Arizona's parched desert is home to the University of Arizona's Karsten Turfgrass Research Facility – where scientists study every means possible to grow heat- and salt-tolerant recreational turf using less and less reclaimed water.

Turfgrass is considered a commodity. Each year the golf industry alone contributes more than $3.4 million to Arizona's economy, provides nearly 20,000 jobs and attracts thousands of tourists, according to the state's Golf Industry Association.

Yet population growth in arid Arizona is exponentially increasing demand for scarce water resources. Arizona was the second fastest growing state in the nation between 2000 and 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of 2010, the population totaled 6.6 million residents – more than triple the 1970 census population of 1.8 million.

Most arid municipalities require the use of effluent to water golf courses and other recreational turf – which presents growing challenges because of its high salinity.

UA scientist Paul Brown has researched how to grow suitable turfgrass with less water for more than 20 years. He's a biometeorologist in the department of soil, water and environmental science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and also a UA Cooperative Extension specialist.

Pushing limits of water tolerance

"We know turf can survive on less than optimal amounts of water. We try to find the minimum requirements to give acceptable visual quality and performance," Brown said.

Research by Brown and his UA colleagues demonstrated that certain turf grasses can survive on 20, even 25 percent, less water than optimal – as long as accumulated salts are leached from the soil.

The 7.5-acre Karsten Turfgrass Research Facility at the Campus Agricultural Center includes five putting greens built to U.S. Golf Association specifications, two 4-meter-deep lysimeters that simulate water use of golf fairways, and a computer-controlled irrigation system linked to an on-site weather station. The prime irrigation source is tertiary effluent from the City of Tucson.

Read more from this July 24 UANews article at the link below.