Studying Grass to Save Gas

July 20, 2010 in Extension, Research, Teaching

Longwood Gardens and Penn State’s Turfgrass Program recently teamed-up to study several grasses and grass mixtures for use in reduced mowing situations. The project was initiated by Mr. Shawn Kister, Grounds Division Leader at Longwood Gardens (Penn State Turfgrass Science/Agronomy, class of 1995), as a means of reducing mowing and gasoline costs, yet still having an aesthetically-pleasing stand of grass in some of Longwood’s reduced maintenance areas. These types of plantings, often referred to as naturalized areas, have been increasing in popularity on golf courses and institutional grounds as a means of cutting mowing costs and creating a more natural look. Dr. Pete Landschoot (Prof. Turfgrass Science, Penn State) and Dr. Mike Fidanza (Assoc. Prof. Horticulture, Berks Campus) worked with Mr. Kister to choose candidate grasses and carry out an experiment to effectively evaluate how the grasses respond to reduced mowing treatments. The criteria for evaluation includes establishment rate, plant height, density, weed encroachment, and aesthetic appeal. The experiment was initiated in 2009, and is expected to last five years.

The experiment has been well-received by Longwood Garden’s Administrators, and has become a popular stop for many of Longwood Garden’s 850,000 visitors per year. When conducting evaluations, one of the team members usually has to intercept visitors and explain the study, so that the other team member can conduct the evaluation. Two signs explaining the study have recently been installed on the test site to help create interest and explain the goals of the research. Interest and information generated by this study will be beneficial in helping other institutions create naturalized areas on institutional grounds and golf courses around Pennsylvania.