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Irrigation Efficiency Showcased at Oct. 24 Turfgrass Field Day

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's groundbreaking study of irrigation efficiency, a 41,000-square-foot series of subsurface drip and sprinkler irrigated plots, will highlight a first ever turfgrass field day Friday, Oct. 24, at NMSU's Fabian Garcia Research Center, just west of the main campus. The daylong program will offer something for everyone from homeowners to professional turfgrass managers.

Bernhard Leinauer, a turfgrass specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service, checks irrigation efficiency monitors in preparation for a first ever turfgrass field day Oct. 24 at NMSU's Fabian Garcia Research Center. The irrigation efficiency study features a 41,000-square-foot series of subsurface drip and sprinkler irrigated experimental plots. (10/06/2003) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

"Our goal is to show that subsurface irrigation is a viable alternative to sprinklers," said Bernhard Leinauer, turfgrass specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Subsurface has improved water distribution with no overlap or evaporation during irrigation."

In drip irrigation, water is applied directly to plant roots through a series of black plastic lines or drip tape buried more than a foot deep. Using subsurface irrigation reduces wind drift, Leinauer said. "All too often during the windy season we have water carrying all the way to Texas," he said with a chuckle.

The turf trial features an alternating series of 5 percent slopes followed by flat areas. "Whenever the subject of subsurface irrigation comes up, the first question is, 'Does it work in sloped areas?'" Leinauer said. "It was an important factor in designing the experiment."

Construction on the new turf project began last year. It was seeded last May and is now fully established. Creeping bentgrass, used on many of the state's golf greens, was selected as the turf because it is one of the most intensively maintained grasses in New Mexico, Leinauer said.

Jerry Schickedanz, dean of NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics, will open the field day at 9 a.m. The morning program will feature field tours and talks on the irrigation efficiency studies, and a nationwide turfgrass test trial featuring Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, buffalograss and tall fescue. Another stop will deal with irrigation requirements of native trees and a potential new landscape tree for New Mexico, the drought-tolerant bigtooth maple.

During the afternoon, participants can either play golf for an additional fee or continue field tours featuring subsurface irrigation in home lawns, salinity test trials at NMSU's golf course and overseeding work at university's football stadium.

NMSU's turf team will also present an update on their statewide research project of 32 different grasses in side-by-side trials for hardiness, cold tolerance and water use. The 5-by-5 foot plots look like a giant checkerboard when viewed from above. The trials began in 2001 at NMSU's agricultural science centers in Los Lunas, Artesia and Tucumcari; two golf courses in Gallup and Albuquerque; and the Fabian Garcia Research Center in Las Cruces.

Field day registration costs $20 and includes an 11:30 a.m. lunch at the NMSU golf course. Field day officials are requesting that participants park at the golf course and take courtesy shuttles because of limited parking at the science center.

For more information or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, please call (505) 646-5280 in advance. Additional field day information and registration forms are available at NMSU's turfgrass and Extension Web site at http://turf.nmsu.edu.