NMSU researchers find solution for golf course yellow patches

December 20, 2010 by Kristina Medley, NMSU News Center

Matthew Alcala, graduate teaching assistant for New Mexico State University Plant and Environmental Sciences, sprays plots at Four Hills Country Club in Albuquerque as part of a research study to treat mid-summer yellow patches on golf course lawns. (Submitted Photo)

New Mexico State University researchers are working to eliminate the yellow patches which can distract from the rolling green hills of New Mexico golf courses in mid-summer.

Ryan Goss, assistant professor of turfgrass science at NMSU, was contacted by the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association in 2008 about the problem of yellow patches on the lawns of Northern New Mexico golf courses. The patches existed even though the grass was getting ample water and fertilizer, and the association was unaware of the source of the problem.

“The courses looked like an Oregon Ducks uniform, some green with giant patches of yellow,” Goss said. “The spots can be unsightly, especially if it is a golf course trying to make money.”

After studying samples, Goss found the source of the problem was a lack of iron in the soil. The problem is mostly unique to the Southwest because of the amount of alkaline in the soil, Goss said. The problem is especially common with the cool weather grasses in Northern New Mexico.

In the summer of 2010, Goss and Matthew Alcala, a graduate teaching assistant for NMSU Plant and Environmental Sciences, tested different treatment formulas on plots at Four Hills Country Club in Albuquerque. They found that liquid iron formulations provided the best results, eliminating the yellow patches in less than a week.

Goss said next summer he will begin researching methods to prevent the yellow patches from appearing. He hopes to find a treatment which will act as an environment-friendly solution, not only for golf courses, but for homeowners’ lawns as well.

“Research is important, because it shows good interaction between industries and the research that goes on at NMSU,” Goss said. “Our research allows us to help improve golf courses and other areas with the same problem while minimizing negative impact to the environment.”

Alcala said participating in the study has been very educational, and he hopes both commercial and individual consumers will benefit from the findings of the study.

“As a graduate student, working on this study has allowed me to put the scientific method to use and to learn how to diagnose problems and find solutions for them,” Alcala said. “It’s an overall good learning experience.”

“Graduate students are invaluable to what we do,” Goss said. “They balance learning about the researching process while actually conducting research, so when they graduate, they will have gained expertise and experience in research.”

The study is sponsored by the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. Other supporters include Amega Science, AguaAid, Grigg Brothers, Helena and Knox Fertilizer.

“EYE ON RESEARCH” is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s feature was written by Kristina M. Medley of University Communications.

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