Alec Kowalewski, formerly an assistant professor of turf management at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Georgia, is the new Oregon State University turf specialist.
He will be teaching and conducting research at the OSU campus in Corvallis, and working as an Extension specialist to help turf grass industry sectors. As the N.B. and Jacqueline Giustina Professor in Turf Management he will be funded in part by an endowment created by the family of OSU alumnus Nat Giustina.
He will conduct research on plots and putting greens at OSU's Lewis-Brown Farm and the Trysting Tree Golf Club near campus, aided by Brian McDonald, an OSU research assistant trained in the turf grass program.
With golf courses, schools and parks tightening their budgets, he plans to conduct experiments that aim to help maintain turn conditions at lower costs.
In will also work on ways to reduce environmental impacts of turf. He will test varieties of grass that require less irrigation and fertilizer in an effort to select high performance types that require lower inputs. He will also look at how naturally derived products like corn gluten or soybean meal work as alternatives to pesticides.
"Turf management is really entering what I'd call an environmentally-conscious era," he says. "There are a lot of concerns about available resources and the effect management is having on the environment."
He will oversee graduate student research, which includes a project that seeks to control Microdochium patch disease without use of chemicals. Caused by a fungus, the malady is associated with rainy, cool conditions and forms discoloration spots on damaged grasses.
The disease is costly to golf courses because it forces owners to purchase fungicides and replant grasses. Pesticide regulations are expected to become more restrictive in control of the disease, however, and alternative controls are essential to the course managers.