In the November issue of SportsField Management magazine and our cover story titled ‘Field Study’ we profiled the new sports turf research facility being completed at Iowa State University’s Horticulture Research Station. Space in the magazine is limited, so here is more on the topic from Editor in Chief Rob Meyer, who toured the facility in late September and was in awe of what he saw.
Very important sports turf research is being done at the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station, where sports fields planted on a 3-acre plot are being used to test soil content and research the effects of athletic use to improve turfgrass fields all across the nation.
“This is one of the bigger areas in the country that is truly dedicated solely to sports turf research,” says Dan Strey, Iowa State research assistant, and mastermind behind this sports turf research facility. According to Strey, much of the research planned involves traffic simulation, using a machine fitted with two rollers with cleats screwed to them. Measuring the wear and tear of a field is a main focus, but, Strey says, researchers also will focus on fertility and seeding rates. The area — which broke ground in early June — is divided into three plots: a native soil field, a field that will be used to evaluate sand topdressing over existing native soil fields, and a field with a 3-inch sand cap. Each field has nine subplots; each subplot has different cultivars and species of grasses. The three plots were designed to represent the major types of sports fields being used and constructed in Iowa as well as in the Midwest.
On the sunny afternoon of Sept. 22, I visited Strey, and the Iowa State Horticulture Research Station. I wanted to see firsthand these research plots and get a sense of what kind of research Strey and his colleagues will be doing. It’s impressive, to say the least. But what was also impressive was the entire horticulture research station, or “the farm,” as Strey calls it.
After we were done talking, discussing and touring the sports turf research plots, Strey took me on a tour of the whole facility, where Iowa State undergraduates and graduate students in the agriculture (and other departments, like sports turf) have dozens of projects planted, in the works. We saw fields of various produce that included sweet potatoes, lettuce, corn (naturally, we’re in Iowa!), tomatoes and various berries. We saw hops fields (pictured here). We saw research ponds, tree research plots for arborists, and so much more.
The Iowa State Horticulture Research Station is approaching its 50th anniversary, next year. It truly is a
unique place to visit, I really enjoyed seeing the various research plots and areas, and it was exciting to hear about all of the ways Iowa State students are using all of these elements to make the world a better place — including safer food, new ways to grow things more effectively and how nature interacts with different things. Truly one of the coolest places I’ve seen in my travels for SportsField Management.