These conference reports are written by the beneficiaries of our travel fund.
Click here to read more about the fund and apply yourself
12th International Turfgrass Research Conference, Beijing, China 14th – 19th July 2013.
Far from being limited to the upkeep of domestic lawns, turfgrass research is a major aspect of the sport industry; providing the literal foundation for the development of golf courses, sports stadia, athletics fields and race tracks.
Following on from the success of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the city of Beijing seemed the perfect venue to host the next quadrennial International Turfgrass Research Conference.
China has a rapidly-developing turfgrass industry, which the conference organisers illustrated to us with technical tours of Qinghe Bay Golf Club, Clover National Grass Variety Research Station, Tang Polo Club and Greenman Machinery Company. The level of recent investment into production of quality turf was clearly evident, particularly to supply the growing number of golf courses in China, which was said to have tripled in the past decade as the game becomes increasingly popular.
A diverse programme of presentations ensued: from plant physiology to golf putting green construction; hydrological processes to earthworm management.
As with most fields of biology at the moment, the sessions on genomics provided the most insight into advances at the forefront of turfgrass research. Dr Bingru Huang of Rutgers University gave a particularly interesting talk about research in which the HVA1 gene, taken from barley, had improved drought tolerance in transgenic turf.
This is a promising field for turf improvement, but there is still considerable work to be done in linking QTL to turf quality indicators.
Pathology presentations focused predominantly on Dollar Spot (Sclerotinia homoeocarpa) – a severely problematic pathogen of turfgrass worldwide. Mr James Popko of the University of Massachusetts described an assay for detecting resistance of Dollar Spot isolates to the fungicide propiconazole, whereas Dr Paul Koch of the University of Wisconsin explained how strategic fungicide application timings can be used to optimise control of both Dollar Spot and Typhula blight on golf courses.
The most invaluable opportunity of the conference came as I presented my own research to a global audience for the first time. My speciality is ‘fairy ring’ – a seldom-studied turfgrass disease that can be caused by numerous species of basidiomycetous fungi. This ubiquitous disease is notoriously difficult to control and, in severe cases, the infested soil becomes so hydrophobic that the turf above dies from drought stress – an understandably undesirable feature on an otherwise well-manicured golf putting green! My poster showed results of a questionnaire that was delivered to golf course managers in a preliminary investigation into the distribution, incidence and severity of the disease in the UK. I found that sandy soils were most prone to fairy ring infestation, particularly in the warmer climate of the south-east UK.
A key theme of the conference was the future of turfgrass management and the week concluded by discussing ways to emphasised throughout the week, with scientists advising on the latest drought -, heat-, freeze-, and disease-resistant cultivars. Suggestions were also made for the use of unconventional species as turfgrass, such as Digitaria didactyla in Australia (Dr Donald Loch, University of Queensland).
The mass sharing of information between nationalities from all over the world at this conference was enlightening and I was really pleased to be so warmly welcomed into the international turfgrass community. Getting the chance to discuss my own research with the world experts in my field was massively beneficial. I would like to express huge thanks to the BSPP for funding this career-boosting opportunity.
Jennie Keighley Harper Adams University.