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Fun Fact Friday about Turfgrass

(By Jared Hoyle; KSU Turfgrass Research and Extension)

The other day, Gus van der Hoeven stopped by my office and dropped off a book simply titled “Turfgrass Science”.  It was Gus’s book from college.  I opened it up and came across the lecture schedule for Agronomy 408, Turf Ecology, in 1973.  As I looked through the lab and lecture series I initially noticed that not much has changed from 1973 to 2014 when it comes to the basics of turfgrass management.  But then I dug a little further and found a lot of interesting facts about turfgrass.  So today I just wanted to share a couple of them from Gus’s Turfgrass Science Textbook from 1969.

Did you know there are biblical references to grass?  In the first chapter of Genesis (1:11-12), reveals the benevolent nature of creation: “And God said, let the earth bring forth grass,…And the earth brought forth grass,…”

Golf is one of the oldest sports played on turfgrass.  Originated in Holland’s Kolf and spread to England and Scotland and then into the United States about 75 years ago (Now we probably have to add 45 years to that because this book was copyright in 1969).  This was way before there was mowers to keep the grass cut short.  So what did they use?  Sheep.  To mow the golf course they used a combination of close cropping and “treading”.  As the putting green developed there were times where the game had to stop until the “impediments” were brushed away.

This fact is one of my favorites.  As early as 1200 A.D. the inhabitants of the Midwest, used sod strips to build their houses.  The sod that was used was from the plains and was composed of buffalo-grammagrass.  We know that the sod was used but we still do not know how the sod was cut and lifted.  The walls of the house were blocks of sod with the joins overlapping.  The roof was “shingled” with strips of sod.  This most certainly was buffalograss.  These houses were called “soddies” and were cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  One problem, unfortunately, heavy rains saturated the sod, which then continued to drip inside the house for a couple days even after the rain had subsided.

Something to think about “If we can build a house out of buffalograss, we should be able to maintain it on our lawns…”

The first turf research, appears to have been conducted in the Olcott turf garden in Connecticut in 1885, and continued until the death of J.B. Olcott in 1910.  The next step in turfgrass research occurred in 1890 at the Rhode Island Agriculture Experiment Station.  The first mention of turf in the Agriculture Appropriations Act of the Federal Government was in 1901.  Seventeen thousand dollars were provided to research …turfing lawns and pleasure grounds… and other areas for ranges, pastures, and erosion control.

In Kansas, turfgrass research was initiated in the late 1920’s by J. Zahnley and L. Quinlan at Kansas State University.  And lastly, the very first turfgrass conference in Kansas was held in 1950.

Many things have changed when it comes to turfgrass but many things are also the same.  Keep with the basics (maybe my next blog post).

Hope you enjoyed the Fun Fact Friday about Turfgrass.  Until next time hope everyone enjoys their weekend!