UACES Facebook Aug. 3 Turfgrass field day: Earthworms, tennis courts and golf shoes
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Aug. 3 Turfgrass field day: Earthworms, tennis courts and golf shoes

May 17, 2016 

By Mary Hightower, U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts

  • Turfgrass field day Aug. 3 in Fayetteville
  • To register, call Shelby Goucher at (479) 575-6680.
  • For info:

(550 words)
(Newsrooms: with downloadable images from 2014 field day:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The common denominator among Wimbledon, earthworms, the Masters and bees will take center stage on Aug. 3 for the annual Turfgrass Field Day at Fayetteville.

Turfgrass Field Day 2014
HIS TURF -- Graduate student Nic Brouwer discusses his research on growth regulators. Taken May 2014. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Fred Miller) 

Mike Richardson, professor-horticulture, for the Division of Agriculture, said this year’s field day would feature not only work by professors, but also research done by their graduate students.

Worm castings

Paige Boyle will be discussing her multi-year research examining cultural practices “to see what, from an ecology standpoint, is causing earthworm activity to be more abundant or less abundant in certain areas,” Richardson said, adding that worms are beneficial to soils, improving drainage and nutrient retention.

However, the little lumps of worm manure, or casts, they leave on the surface can cause issues “when you’re mowing fine turf down to a half an inch or lower,” he said. “They can start interfering with the playability and get caught in the mowing equipment.”

Richardson said Boyle’s work “may open some doors for superintendents to use management practices that will reduce the castings without having to resort to extreme or illegal means, in some cases killing the worms.”

Grass courts

Last year, Richardson and Doug Karcher, professor of Horticulture, set up a grass tennis court, of the sort the world sees being played at Wimbledon.

“This is really a proof-of-concept demonstration and the reason we included this in our golf group is that many golf clubs also have strong tennis programs,” Richardson said. Since it was built, the court sees play two to three times a week.

“What it shows is that the maintenance of the court is pretty easy and this may give golf courses an opportunity to enhance services that their club might offer or provide an incentive for new members,” he said. “All the equipment and know-how is already there.”

Participants will be invited to try the surface for themselves.

“It’s easily the most forgiving court from a stress standpoint,” Richardson said. “It’s cool, tends to be softer, easier on the joints and players don’t experience as much fatigue. For older players, it’s a really nice surface.”

Yikes! Spikes!

The sole research by Karcher is in its early stages. A couple of decades ago, golfers began seeing metal-spiked golf shoes give way to ones with various shapes of plastic. The idea was that the plastic would be easier on the grass than the metal spikes.

“However, shoe makers are now developing plastic spikes that may be more aggressive and damaging than the old metal spikes,” Richardson said. “This study is a multi-location trial using different spoke patterns and examining how they injure the turf.”

Getting a buzz in the landscape

Grad student Michelle Wisdom’s research is focused on incorporating plants into low-management lawns or low-maintenance areas of golf courses that provide pollinator habitat from spring ‘til fall. “She’ll be talking about some of the plants she’s been evaluating and which are preferred,” he said.

Field day participants will also learn about the return on investment by installing irrigation sensors, an app that can help guide turf fertilization with visual recognition software, as well as getting a tour of the natural and synthetic turf athletic fields on the University of Arkansas campus.

To learn more about managing turfgrass, visit

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact the Horticulture Department at as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.   

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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