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Annual turfgrass conference to focus on water conservation and fertilization

RUIDOSO, N.M. - The phrase "desert region" brings to mind images of rolling, sandy hills; dry, hot air; an abundance of prickly cacti; and...lush turfgrass?

From left, Riccardo Franchin, a student intern from the University of Padova in Italy; Marco Schiavon, an NMSU graduate student working on his doctorate degree; and Filippo Rimi, a visiting scientist from the University of Padova work on a test plot for a project on saline irrigation turfgrass research. NMSU graduate students will give various presentations on their projects at the annual Southwest Turfgrass Conference Oct. 12-14 in Ruidoso. (Photo courtesy of Bernd Leinauer)

It is possible to successfully maintain healthy turfgrass in the desert without depleting already limited water resources, and experts plan to teach participants the tricks of the trade at the annual Southwest Turfgrass Conference Oct. 12-14 in Ruidoso.

"I want the participants to learn that turf by itself is not all bad, and it is not the water-guzzling groundcover we always hear about," said Bernd Leinauer, a professor and Extension turfgrass specialist with New Mexico State University. "There are many, many ways of maintaining turf to keep the benefits, yet not waste a lot of resources on it."

Water conservation and appropriate fertilization techniques are the themes of this year's event, sponsored by NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service and the Southwest Turfgrass Association (SWTA). Presentations at the conference cater to people who maintain turf areas and are in the landscape business.

The conference starts off on Oct. 12 with a fundraiser golf tournament at 1 p.m. at Rainmakers Golf Community in Ruidoso. All proceeds will support research projects and students in NMSU's turfgrass program.

On Oct. 13, the conference will switch venues to the Ruidoso Convention Center. At 8:30 a.m., Dan Blaeser, the SWTA president, will open the meeting with an introduction, followed by the keynote address from Dale Devitt, a professor of soil and water science at the University of Nevada, in Las Vegas. Devitt is considered an authority on water use and water conservation in desert landscapes, and he will discuss the use of sustainable water in desert urban landscapes in the 21st century.

After Devitt's presentation, Leinauer and Ryan Goss, NMSU Plant and Environmental Sciences assistant professor, will give updates on Extension, research, and teaching programs at NMSU.

During the session "hot turf topics," researchers and graduate students will give 15-minute updates on studies that are conducted at NMSU and Iowa State University. Goss will talk about the yellowing of turf, and Leinauer about variety trials; Matteo Serena and Marco Schiavon, both graduate research assistants, will discuss bermudagrass establishment in general, and temperature requirements to establish bermudagrass, respectively.

Nick Christians, a professor of horticulture at Iowa State University, will give information on summer-induced chlorosis.

There will also be a roundtable discussion of fertigation (the application of fertilizers through an irrigation system), the basics of irrigation, seed and cultivar selection, and organics and biostimulants for turf maintenance.

After the break, Lance Davisson, with the forestry division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, will give a presentation on large trees in New Mexico, and Devitt will discuss salinity damages on landscape plants.

Sustainable fertilization techniques will be presented by Christians and Brian Horgan, an associate professor and Extension turfgrass specialist with the University of Minnesota. Horgan will talk about how much nitrogen golf turfgrass needs and about soil fertility and plant nutrition; Christians will discuss interpreting soil tests and how they impact fertilization.

Christians will also give updates on the control of Poa annua and on natural products for lawn care. Kai Umeda, an Extension agent with the University of Arizona, will talk about broad-spectrum weed control. Umeda will also discuss integrated pest management for insects.

Mike Martindale, the senior human resources administrator for Bernalillo County, will discuss managing time and people by inspiring trust, followed by Davisson's talk about helping to build community forestry programs.

Vernon Payne, the president of Rio Rancho High School's soccer booster club, will give tips on how to convince local high school administrators to build athletic fields.

Jamshid Ashigh, an NMSU Extension plant sciences specialist, will talk about identifying weeds, and Carol Sutherland, an entomology specialist at NMSU, will give an update on insects in New Mexico. Because the presentations cover water conservation, fertilization and appropriate pest control, attendees will be eligible for continuing education units for pesticide applicators and certified crop advisors in New Mexico and Texas.

A total of $3,000 in scholarships will be awarded to undergraduate and graduate students during the conference.

The cost to attend the conference is $160. Anyone with questions can visit www.southwestturfgrass.com or contact Leinauer at (575) 646-2546.