More manufacturers get on board with industry-wide conceptas their products will attest

Sustainability came to light in the golf course maintenance industry several years ago because golf courses need a formal plan to be profitable businesses while being environmental stewards to prove they are worthwhile assets to their respective communities. But golf courses could never do this without the support of the companies that supply the products that allow them to be sustainable. In the past few years, more manufacturers of golf course maintenance products – mowers, irrigation equipment, fertilizers, fungicides, etc. – are seizing sustainability. Below, Superintendent magazines’ partners in the fourth-annual Golf & Sustainability supplement share their wisdom and wares to help golf courses become more sustainable.

Bayer ES: Sustainability is central

At the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Florida earlier this year, Bayer CropScience’s Environmental Science division devoted a segment of its booth theme to sustainability. It was a powerful statement from a major life science company that’s embracing the concept.

“Our purpose is to foster healthy environments where we live, work and play, and that sets the stage for sustainability,” says David Wells, Bayer’s golf business manager. “It’s central to everything we do.”

 

Wells also believes Bayer is spot-on with its approach toward sustainability, as evidenced by superintendents’ reaction to the concept at Bayer’s recent Plant Health Academy. A group of superintendents was asked to define plant health, another concept Bayer has formally embraced in the form of products and educational programs. Three of the group’s definitions contained the words “sustainability” or “sustainable.”

“I thought that was very interesting,” Wells says. “Sustainability was a central feature of their thinking.”

According to Wells, superintendents are embracing sustainability for many of the same reasons that Bayer is. One reason is future regulatory restrictions on pesticides, which will also undoubtedly require new solutions that meet the evolving needs of the superintendent, Wells explains.

“What we have today may not be what the industry looks like in 20 years,” Wells says. “Bayer is positioning for potential changes in the industry, and sustainability is an important consideration there.”

SUSTAINABILITY AT A GLANCE

  • Sustainability isn’t a new environmental movement begun by a left-leaning political group.
  • Sustainability is about the environment – it’s also about the economic and social welfare of your golf facility.
  • Sustainability isn’t about breaking the golf course maintenance budget.
  • Sustainability will mean different things to different golf courses.
  • Sustainability isn’t about implementing an entirely organic maintenance program.
  • Sustainability is about using synthetic pesticides and fertilizer.
  • Sustainability is for high-profile courses as much as it is for low-profile courses.

Bayer is researching biological solutions and their possible development as new tools to support the superintendent.

“They fit well with our definition of sustainability,” states Wells.

But sustainability for Bayer isn’t just about introducing new solutions. It’s also about educational endeavors, such as Bayer’s Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow program, an initiative that seeks to advance plant health research and education for superintendents to ensure the health of their courses, and the industry, for generations to come.

Wells is concerned that sustainability has received a bad rap because superintendents may perceive it as being too demanding on their time. They might think they need to implement a series of environmental measures to be sustainable, which is not the case.

The key is to keep sustainability’s three components – environmental prowess, economic smartness and social awareness – in balance, Wells says. For instance, it’s important not to let the environmental component outweigh the economic component, something that has happened in European countries.

“Our future is dependent on maintaining the balance between environment, economy and society,” Wells says. “If they’re well balanced, then the future is bright.”

BioDirt: Products that do more

“Doing more with less.” The phrase is heard often at golf courses throughout the U.S. It’s also related to sustainability.

 

Superintendents everywhere have been forced to do more (or at least the same) with less. Budget cuts have led to smaller crews, not to mention fewer dollars for maintenance products.

Cummings, Georgia-based BioDirt supplies liquid fertilizers that feature little waste, leaching and volatility, low burn potential and uniform growth, among other attributes, according to David Winters, BioDirt’s president and founder. Winters says BioDirt is in the business of helping superintendents do more with less through its products, such as Fortress, designed to maintain putting greens and to aid in the recovery of injured or diseased turf while reducing inputs, which Winters equates to reducing labor.

Golf courses, from the large resorts to the Joe Sixpack public tracks, need to be sustainable to be successful, says Winters, who created his company about one and a half years ago “to make a difference.”

Looking at it from a superintendent’s perspective, Winters asked, “If I could create a fertilizer, what would I want in it?” Winters, who has bachelor’s degrees in ornamental horticulture and environmental health science from the University of Georgia, studied up on the roles that biostimulants, enzymes and biodegradable polymers would have when he created the fertilizer.

Enzymes break down compounds in soil and help grow beneficial microbes, which produce food for the plant, Winters explains. Polymers help keep enzymes in place and from washing through the soil as well as hold onto nutrients, allowing the fertilizer to be more sustainable.

Innovative superintendents who have embraced sustainability are looking for products to help them cut back in other turf maintenance areas, which will help save money in their budgets, Winters says. In addition, these superintendents want products they can trust to keep turf healthy so they don’t have to worry when they go home at night. It’s a lot to ask for, but Winters wants his products to deliver.

“You give the grass what it needs, and it’s able to defend itself more readily,” he adds.

Campey Turf Care: Helping to create a healthy plant

Campey Turf Care Systems is coming across the big pond, specifically to market and sell its golf course maintenance equipment to U.S. courses.

Simon Gumbrill, sales director for the Cheshire, England-based company, says Campey’s products can assist superintendents who have embraced sustainability at their golf courses. Campey is already doing that in Europe, where the golf market has become much more environmentally focused the past few years, Gumbrill says.

 

Some of the equipment includes:

The Imants ShockWave, a linear decompactor that’s designed to revitalize heavy-wear areas by relieving soil compaction, improving aeration and removing surface water. It features a no-chains, direct-drive design.

The Koro FieldTopMaker is a compact, heavy-duty fraise mower for surface restoration. It can remove unwanted surface matter such as Poa annua, thatch, weeds or the entire surface to a depth of 50 millimeters.

The Koro by Imants Recycling Dresser MKII is a heavy-duty aerator and root zone recycler. It aerates the underlying soil vertically and horizontally, removing soil from the root zone and redistributing it across the playing surface. Layering and compaction are eliminated, biological activity is increased, and existing fertilizers in the soil are better utilized. The Recycling Dresser reduces the amount of new topdressing required, therefore saving labor and material costs.

“It’s ideal for sustainability because you’re reusing what you already have,” Gumbrill says.

The VGR Topchanger combines the actions of aeration and sand filling in one action. It produces a closely spaced row of holes that are immediately filled with sand and both liquid and solid amendments.

The main goal for Campey’s products is contributing to a durable and sustainable playing surface, Gumbrill says.

“We want to help create a healthy plant that requires less assistance, either chemically or organically,” he adds.

Gumbrill believes U.S. superintendents are slowly embracing sustainability in golf, much like they did in Europe. From an environmental perspective, sustainability was enforced in certain countries like Denmark when synthetic pesticides were no longer available to use on turf.

“Golf courses had to adapt very quickly,” Gumbrill states.

He believes excellent playability on golf courses can be achieved through environmental means without sacrificing quality.

“I don’t think it’s a case of lowering your standards,” he says.

Champion: A more sustainable variety

Previously, golf courses in the transition zone that converted from bentgrass to bermudagrass greens were looked down upon, like their personnel didn’t have the wherewithal to grow bentgrass, which was considered the superior grass.

 

But that belief is changing, thanks to the success of Champion ultradwarf bermudagrass. Many golf courses throughout the transition zone have switched from bentgrass to Champion – and now Champion, produced by Bay City, Texas-based Champion Turf Farms, is viewed as the superior grass in many cases.

Much of that thinking has to do with golf’s move toward sustainability. Champion has gained a reputation as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly turfgrass because it requires fewer inputs.

Mike Brown, the company’s vice president, says superintendents in the transition zone who are forward thinkers and on the leading edge are turning to Champion to replace their courses’ bentgrass greens. Those superintendents, motivated by sustainability, realize that Champion greens cost less to maintain because they don’t require the upkeep bentgrass greens do. They also require less fungicide and are more vigorous because they thrive in the heat.

The latest golf course in the transition zone to convert to Champion is perhaps the most well-known course to do so: Pinehurst No. 2 will renovate its greens in early July.

“We’re very excited about it,” Brown states.

He says Pinehurst No. 2’s personnel has the wherewithal to grow bentgrass in hot and harsh conditions, which they have done for years. But Pinehurst is converting to Champion as a sustainable measure. The golf course maintenance team will no longer have to babysit the greens in the summer, standing by ready to hand water them.

“They know the future is to get away from that kind of thing,” Brown says.

In the past, Pinehurst No. 2 has also had Poa annua issues on its bentgrass greens. But there will be no more interns plucking Poa from the greens by hand. Poa annua poses little, if any, threat to Champion greens, Brown notes.

Most golf courses in the transition zone with bentgrass greens are an excellent fit for Champion, Brown adds.

“What Champion does is what you need in that part of the world,” he says. “You need it to green up quickly.”

Champion’s density and the mat it forms help it to withstand traffic, Brown explains. It also doesn’t need to be overseeded in the transition zone.

EarthWorks: The relax factor

Joel Simmons can brag all he wants to about his company’s products. But he’ll be the first to admit that superintendents aren’t using them because of what he’s saying.

“[Superintendents] aren’t embracing what I’m saying, they’re embracing the results that they’re seeing,” says Simmons, president and founder of Easton, Pennsylvania-based EarthWorks Natural Organic Products.

 

EarthWorks, now in its 26th year, fit the bill as a sustainable company long before the term was ever used in the golf course maintenance industry. For years Simmons has touted the importance of using carbon-based products to “feed the soil.”

“[But our approach] was so esoteric to people,” Simmons says, noting that he and his comrades were once viewed as “those wacky dudes selling chicken crap.”

But times have changed. “Carbon-based fertilizers are becoming mainstream,” Simmons says. “Superintendents are starting to understand why carbon is so important in their programs, and they’re embracing that.”

Superintendents realize that soil requires a certain carbon-to-nitrogen ratio to stay robust, and that salt-based fertilizers will eventually destroy that ratio, Simmons notes.

“But our products will replenish the carbon in the soil,” he adds.

Simmons never intended to start an environmental movement with his company’s products, although he markets the products as eco-friendly. And he doesn’t tell superintendents that they can stop using pesticides and conventional fertilizers if they use his products.

But if superintendents do use EarthWorks’ products, the healthier soil will result in healthier turfgrass that can better withstand disease and insect infestations, which will allow superintendents to sleep better at night.

“Our products don’t eliminate all the problems, but they can certainly get superintendents into problems a lot later and out of them a lot faster,” Simmons says.

He doesn’t doubt that superintendents are embracing sustainability. In fact, he added another component to sustainability in addition to its environmental, economic and social factors: the relax factor.

Superintendents want to “create an environment where they don’t have to constantly find ways to put out fires,” he says. “Sustainability to them is … can I just get through the day without a major collapse.”

Engage Agro USA: Aiming to lead

Talk about embracing sustainability. Engage Agro USA’s mission statement mentions that the Prescott, Arizona-based company aims to be a leader in the introduction of sustainable solutions in the industry.

 

Trevor Thorley saw an unmet need when he became president of Engage Agro USA about four years ago: to offer more environmentally friendly products as part of the company’s brand. Thorley says the interest was there from superintendents.

Engage Agro offers the bio-based pesticides, Regalia PTO biofungicide and Grandevo PTO bioinsecticide, which are registered trademarks of Marrone Bio Innovations. It also offers several soil surfactants, including Integrate P pellets, which contain seaweed extract to increase plant vigor and reduce stress while holding water.

Thorley notes that more superintendents tried Regalia PTO as part of their fungicide programs in the past year. Regalia PTO is an extract from Reynoutria sachalinensis, a giant knotweed. The active ingredient (AI) inhibits the pathogen through induced systemic resistance and controls dollar spot, anthracnose and bermudagrass decline, among other diseases.

“They’ve seen the benefits of mixing it in programs,” Thorley adds.

In certain areas of the Northeast, where environmental restrictions are more stringent, superintendents have been more open to products like Regalia PTO, Thorley notes.

Thorley says he fielded more questions from superintendents about Engage Agro USA’s sustainable products at this year’s Golf Industry Show than in the past.

“They want to be on the leading edge, and sustainability is a big part of being on the leading edge,” he states.

But, as Thorley has stressed in the past, the products have to perform because the superintendent is still accountable for providing top conditions.

Engage Agro USA is working on some new bio-based products, including a bionematode product with a “completely different mode of action,” and some “next-generation nitrogen products that fit in the framework of sustainability,” Thorley says.

Thorley has a history in the industry, once leading Bayer’s turf and ornamental business, as well as serving as president of Valent U.S.A. He admits he never would’ve considered the bio-based products for his company’s portfolio if they didn’t perform.

e-parUSA : A system for environmental management

Sustainability is simply about getting better, says Kevin Fletcher, CEO of Albany, New York-based e-parUSA.

 

To help superintendents get better when it comes to sustainability, e-parUSA offers its Environmental Management System (EMS). The EMS helps superintendents document environmental procedures, risk assessments, policies and best practice protocols. Then they are available to download at the touch of a button.

“There’s a need for more effective and efficient approaches to help superintendents [be more sustainable],” Fletcher says. “And that’s at the core of our mission – to try and create a more innovative approach toward environmental management.”

Golf courses can sign up for three-year memberships for the course, the clubhouse and operations.

“Basically, what we’re doing is bringing some tools and techniques to the golf industry that are tried and true in other business sectors,” Fletcher states.

Since the company started in 2012, e-parUSA’s goal has been to grow environmental management systems throughout the industry, Fletcher says. But this isn’t like debuting a new fairway mower to the industry – superintendents know what a fairway mower can do. Superintendents need more education about what e-parUSA can do, Fletcher says, noting that word-of-mouth has helped spur interest in the technology.

While superintendents have solid intentions toward fulfilling the concepts of sustainability, there’s often a gap between those intentions and putting them into action, Fletcher says, noting that superintendents often don’t have the tools and technology to do so. Superintendents need to identify their expectations and obligations in regard to sustainability, and Fletcher says the EMS can help them do that.

With respect to sustainability in golf, Fletcher says, “This isn’t going away and will continue to evolve.”

Harsco: Transforming waste materials

To Sarver, Pennsylvania-based Harsco Metals and Minerals, seizing sustainability is taking a material like calcium silicate that’s part of the waste stream, purifying it, and putting it in a form that’s beneficial. The company has done that with CrossOver, a magnesium- and calcium silicate-based soil amendment.

 

Harsco spent several years working with the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) to get an analytical method designed and published for soluble plant-available calcium silicate. The AAPFCO concluded that calcium silicate is a “plant beneficial substance.”

The company says that many agronomists believe that correcting salt and pH-affected soils may be better addressed with calcium silicate. Harsco also believes that superintendents have a need for amendments that correct problems for both the soil and the plant, which CrossOver provides, says Stephen Miranda, Harsco’s global marketing manager of agriculture and turfgrass.

Calcium silicate has been “on the fringe” in the turfgrass industry for the past 15 years, Miranda says. A few products were introduced containing calcium silicate, but they never had an impact, he explains.

But Miranda says Harsco has gathered a “huge database to support” CrossOver’s label and literature claims, including research from Rutgers University and Louisiana State University.

“Superintendents take data very seriously,” Miranda says. “Everybody wants to know the true mode of action with it, and we’ve been able to provide that, which has brought this technology to the forefront.”

According to Miranda, scientists have discovered that large amounts of calcium silicate are removed from turfgrass annually through mowing.

“Scientists have found that if calcium silicate isn’t replaced, plants are predisposed to disease and insect attack and environmental stresses,” Miranda says. “[CrossOver] allows superintendents to maximize their fertility and disease control programs.”.

Poor-quality and effluent water can hasten poor soil structure, Miranda notes. That’s where calcium silicate can make a difference – translating soil benefits to plant benefits, he says.

Harsco has embraced sustainability and prides itself on taking waste-stream materials like calcium silicate and transforming them.

“We have access to these types of materials globally,” Miranda says. “One of our core competencies is taking technology like this and marrying them together to form new and novel products that fill a need that hasn’t been seen before. We’re devoting a lot of manpower and financial resources into this.”

Humate International: Sustainability equates to feeding the soil

For more than 25 years, Brian Galbraith has hung his hat on the phrase “feeding the soil” when it comes to achieving healthy turfgrass. Galbraith, president of Jacksonville, Florida-based Humate International, isn’t going to change his beliefs now. In fact, they’re stronger than ever.

 

“If you can get your soil healthy, you’re going to grow healthy plants that are resistant to disease and even insects,” Galbraith says.

Products that can do that are called “sustainable.” Galbraith’s company sells liquid- and granular-based humate products based upon a relatively young, high-energy humate extracted from the Florida soil. They are not refined, but are left in their natural form to bring a broad base of macronutrients, micronutrients, trace minerals and microbial support materials to the soil system. Hence, “feeding the soil.” Humate International also sells microbial inoculants and support materials as well as fertilizers and specialty products built on humate.

Humates shouldn’t be looked at as an additional expense, Galbraith says. “Our humate can help superintendents cut back on inputs and save them money,” he adds.

Galbraith says his business is adding customers all the time. But many superintendents are in a mode to save money.

“What we’re finding with superintendents is that, because of the economic pressures put on them over the past four years, they’re doing everything they can to reduce the amount of products they’re purchasing,” he explains.

That’s when Galbraith reminds them of the importance of feeding the soil. When the soil is abundant in a high-energy organic such as humates, and contains a balanced microbial population for the company’s humates to work with, then the chemistry in the soil becomes more efficient, leading to healthier turf, he tells them.

Investing in humates costs money, but Galbraith insists that superintendents will see a return on investment in the long run when they save on other inputs, fertilizer, fungicides and even water.

It’s not lost on Galbraith that more industry companies are using humates in their products thanks to the advent of sustainability, not to mention the data supporting that humates have a solid place in today’s world of golf course maintenance.

“We introduced this concept of applying microbes to the golf course market many years ago,” says Galbraith, who started his company in 1988. “It has been a tough slog. But when you have more companies talking about introducing microbes to the soil, [the concept] gains more credibility, which helps the whole market.”

Jacobsen: Validating the concept

Chris Fox, a product manager for Charlotte-based Jacobsen, shares a perfect example of golf and sustainability related to the company’s ECLIPSE 322 riding electric greens mowers. A superintendent whose budget was trimmed (sound familiar?) had to find an alternative to walk-mowing greens to save on labor. The superintendent, however, was accustomed to his crew mowing greens with walk-behind mowers. He was concerned about the potential of a hydraulic leak, not to mention the quality of cut, that came with using a riding greens mower.

The superintendent tried the ECLIPSE 322. It not only eliminated his concerns about possible hydraulic leaks (the machine has zero hydraulics), the superintendent also discovered that the machine’s quality of cut was just as good as his walking greens mowers, Fox says. Fuel savings and the mower’s quiet performance were added benefits. It was a smart move for the superintendent, and all in the name of sustainability.

 

Jacobsen has been marketing the ECLIPSE line of walking and riding greens mowers for their sustainable attributes. While it may cost more because of the technology, more superintendents are seeing the return on investment that the line offers.

“The interest continues to grow in the ECLIPSE line of mowers,” Fox notes. “It has become a proven and widely used technology.”

To such an extent that superintendents are asking Fox when Jacobsen will take the technology to fairways.

“The fact that superintendents are already thinking ahead to fairway mowers tell us that the technology is trusted and validated,” Fox says.

In regard to sustainability, superintendents are telling Jacobsen personnel that they want three things from mowing technology: one, eliminate the risk of leaks on the turf; two, reduced fuel consumption; and three, reduce or eliminate air and/or noise pollution.

Jacobsen President David Withers is always “talking about how to make equipment smaller and lighter” to be more sustainable, Fox says.

“The lighter the mower, the smaller engine you need to power it, thus requiring less energy and fuel,” he adds.

The improvements in technology are moving fast, says Adam Slick, Jacobsen’s communications and public relation’s manager. When Jacobsen debuted its electric E-Walk walking greens mower in the early 2000s, nobody expected the technology would one day extend to a riding greens mower. Jacobsen will soon offer the ECLIPSE 322 with a lithium battery, increasing its range to 18 greens plus practice greens on one charge.

Jacobsen also broke new ground on the environmental front by hosting an Earth Day event on April 22 at The Bear Trace Golf Club near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The event showcased Bear Trace’s environmental achievements and commitment to golf and sustainability, including the use of seven ECLIPSE 322 riding greens mowers.

John Deere Golf: Components in sync

The fact that John Deere is more than 176 years old is a testament to what can be achieved by balancing the three factors of sustainability, says Mark Schmidt, the principal scientist for John Deere turf products.

Schmidt can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the three components of sustainability to be in sync for sustainability to succeed in golf.

 

“Sustainability is about delivering value-based economic, social and environmental performance,” Schmidt explains. “The inclusion of the terms ‘value’ and ‘performance’ in the definition are important because both require that the outputs exceed the inputs. When such a condition exists, you have an efficient and effective system that will endure.”

A solid example of sustainability in sync at Cary, North Carolina-based John Deere Golf can be seen through the evolution of Deere’s hybrid mower line.

“These mowers can help protect the environment through the virtual elimination of hydraulic leaks, but also add economic value in reducing fuel consumption, among other attributes, including the potential for lower operating noise,” Schmidt says. “Superintendents respond to products that deliver multidimensional sustainability.”

Schmidt believes superintendents are embracing the three concepts of sustainability and are poised for the future.

“The awareness of the need for sustainable practices is partially recognizing the good work already practiced by many superintendents in addition to understanding a common baseline for where practices, product innovation and other factors will go in the future,” he says.

The use of data, information and innovation will be required to advance sustainability in golf, Schmidt says.

“These elements are already important to and utilized by many superintendents,” Schmidt adds. “So, in many ways, the means of embracing sustainability are about encapsulating elements that are already familiar and in use, but evolving them as part of a system.

It’s important that golfers understand the role of sustainably where they play. It’s a superintendent’s job to help teach them.
photo by thinkstock

The future of sustainability depends on superintendents viewing it wholly, not just as an environmental issue, Schmidt stresses.

“It’s not about less being more, but about performance,” Schmidt says. “In this sense, the constant will be the measure of sustainability – simply value-based performance. The evolution will occur around the methods and practices used to achieve this end game. Additionally, we will see evolutions around how sustainability is measured both on the front end with inputs and the back end with outputs or value-based performance.”

Montco Products: Surfactants as sustainable as it gets

Surfactants are perhaps one of the golf course maintenance industry’s most sustainable products. They not only help superintendents water more wisely, thus saving water, but they also help cut down on labor. Surfactants are environmentally and economically friendly.

But it didn’t start out that way, says Ben Poole, vice president of Ambler, Pennsylvania-based Montco Products. Poole’s grandfather, Robert Oechsle, founded Montco Products in the 1960s after working with Larry Fletcher and Bob Moore for 15 years. The three men were pioneers in the industry. Poole remembers Oechsle telling him stories about top agronomists laughing at him when he tried to explain the benefits of surfactants and wetting agents.

 

“They would turn on a dime and walk the other way,” Poole says, noting that Montco Products’ Surf-Side is the longest-selling wetting agent on the market.

Fast-forward about 50 years, and more than 90 percent of superintendents are using surfactants on their golf courses. Poole expects the use of surfactants and wetting agents will continue to increase in the coming years, especially as water prices increase, which they will in time, he says.

Poole points to research that states superintendents use surfactants for four primary purposes: relieving localized dry spots, managing water, improving drainage, and improving pesticide and fertilizer movement in the soil. These purposes will only intensify in the future, Poole predicts.

“Water is a precious resource, and there are increasing regulations on fertilizer and pesticide use, which make surfactants a must,” he adds.

Poole believes most superintendents see the return on investment they can get by using surfactants and wetting agents. He notes that superintendents need to consider the safety factor when it comes to wetting agents.

“Over the last 60 years, many wetting agents have been taken off the market because they burned the turf,” he says.

In the past few years, several surfactants have been released to the market with new chemistries. But Poole stands by Surf-Side’s “old” chemistry, noting that Keith Karnok, Ph.D., a turfgrass professor at the University of Georgia, recently wrote in an article that some of the older chemistries are among the most reliable. To that, Poole notes that some of Montco Products’ customers have been using the company’s surfactants for more than 30 years.

Ostara: Making it easier

For superintendents interested in seizing sustainability from a nutrient standpoint, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies has made it easy for them, says Patricia Crease, marketing manager for the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company, which offers Crystal Green, a plant-activated, slow-release fertilizer sustainably made from renewable sources.

“If sustainability is on your radar, we provide you with a product that’s easy to integrate into your program,” says Crease, citing Crystal Green’s environmentally friendly and economically viable components.

 

Crystal Green is made from phosphorus and nitrogen that’s recovered from municipal and industrial wastewater streams and transformed into a slow-release fertilizer. A blend of phosphorus, nitrogen and magnesium, Crystal Green is an enhanced-efficiency fertilizer that offers low application rates and reduced nutrient loss through leaching and runoff, according to the company.

Although phosphorus leaching and runoff has been an issue with fertilizers on turfgrass, Crystal Green reduces that risk because of its slow-release and citrate-soluble formulation, the company says.

Dan Froehlich, Ostara’s vice president of agronomy, says more superintendents are implementing environmentally friendly measures at their courses, so Crystal Green is a good fit for them. Froehlich notes that more superintendents are also doing many more things than they did 15 years ago. Crystal Green can help them there, too.

“If Crystal Green can make their jobs easier – and superintendents don’t have to make as many fertilizer applications with phosphorus and nitrogen as they did before – then we’ve taken something off their already busy plate,” Froehlich says.

While superintendents have used slow-release fertilizers for several years, they didn’t have many options for slow-release fertilizers with phosphorus, Froehlich notes. They like the peace of mind they’re getting from using Crystal Green because they know the phosphorus won’t end up in a pond or stream.

Crystal Green is gaining a reputation as a sustainable innovation, Froehlich says. More superintendents and distributors are inquiring about it.

Froehlich says superintendents need to consider sustainable new technologies from across the golf course maintenance spectrum.

“The innovative superintendents will look at those technologies and evaluate them and see which ones make sense for their courses,” he adds.

R&R Products: Propane makes sense

Most everybody wants to do the right thing when it comes to the environment, says, Jim Coker, director of propane applications for Tucson, Arizona-based R&R Products.

“But it has been beat in our heads that it’s going to cost more to go green,” Coker says.

 

But going green by changing to propane-fueled equipment wouldn’t cost superintendents a dime more in fuel, Coker states. In fact, it would cost them a lot less.

Coker has told landscape management companies that propane-fueled equipment could reduce their overall fuel bills by $1 a gallon. Some of those landscapers use 100,000 gallons of gas and diesel fuel a year.

“That’s $100,000 a year to their bottom lines,” says Coker, who’s also a board member of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), which promotes the safe and efficient use of odorized propane gas.

Coker believes superintendents would be more open to using propane if they knew it cost less, can’t spill on greens, reduces equipment maintenance, and is more environmentally friendly.

“[Superintendents] talk about reducing their carbon footprints,” Coker says. “Propane contains 70 percent less carbon than gasoline and diesel.”

Equipment fueled by propane also requires fewer oil changes and other engine maintenance, Coker adds.

“Less carbon in fuel leads to cleaner engines,” he explains.

Coker says he recently visited Augusta National Golf Club, where he made a presentation on adapting equipment to propane. He wasn’t trying to sell Augusta anything – just trying to get Augusta officials thinking about a more sustainable fuel option.

Coker says Kubota has agreed to work with R&R Products to possibly implement the technology.

“With Kubota stepping up, people will take notice,” he adds.

The golf industry’s top mower manufacturers aren’t interested in the technology, Coker says, but he’s not giving up on them.

“They won’t start a new product line because it takes too long and costs too much,” he says. “They build by volume.”

Coker also likes propane because it’s an American-generated fuel and would require less reliance on foreign oil.

“I think we’re going to change some minds if we can get people looking at this,” Coker says. “The only downside is change. That’s the hardest thing for any of us to do is change what we normally do.”

Staples Golf: Reducing the waste

Andy Staples is in the business of helping superintendents save money, specifically on energy costs associated with water use.

Staples is the president of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Staples Golf, a sustainable golf design and resource management consulting group. Staples is focusing on energy efficiency, water conservation and carbon footprinting services to make golf courses more efficient and profitable.

 

Staples Golf has created and is offering the Energy Snapshot for Golf, the industry’s first tablet-based energy and water-savings calculator that superintendents and other golf course personnel can use to calculate savings on energy costs in real time. The company has worked with several golf facilities to research, test and identify energy and fiscal saving opportunities. It often begins with an understanding of a golf course’s utility bills, Staples notes. Course personnel are beginning to realize there’s a possibility they could reduce their bills with a little ingenuity.

Staples says, “Nobody wants to throw away good money.”

The Energy Snapshot for Golf’s process begins by assessing a golf course’s water and energy use baseline calculations, with potential areas of opportunity for reduction. Some of these opportunities can be achieved with minimal adjustments to management, or with more substantial changes such as integrating soil moisture sensors, reducing the amount of turf, or upgrading a course’s irrigation system, Staples says. By watering less, pumps will consume less energy, irrigation piping will last longer, and golf courses will pay for less water.

Staples says superintendents become interested in what he has to offer after he tells them he can help with issues related to energy costs and water availability. His analysis also includes a summary report and action plan for courses to implement.

“This year I’ve been as busy as I’ve ever been,” Staples says, noting he can save golf courses thousands of dollars annually. “It’s my mantra to always be looking for a better way.”

Staples believes the message of sustainability is resonating with superintendents.

“The message – not just from an environmental perspective but from a community perspective and economic perspective – makes a lot of sense, he adds.

The Andersons: “Living the whole idea”

Some say the long-timers in the golf course maintenance industry are the ones who roll their eyes when they hear the word sustainability. But not John Pope, who has been a territory manager with Maumee, Ohio-based The Andersons for 20 years and has been in the industry for nearly 40 years.

“The Andersons – and all its dimensions – has embraced sustainability,” Pope says, noting that the company has been recycling corncobs for years to be used in everything from pet litter to high-tech biomedical research products.

 

Lately, it’s been products like The Andersons’ dispersing granule technology, designed to optimize granular applied turf nutrition. Fertilizer and soil amendment granules, in contact with water, disperse into thousands of microparticles that move through the turf canopy and into the root zone.

The Andersons now also manufactures and markets organic products, including Humic DG, a natural soil conditioner that acts as an organic chelator or microbial stimulator, and Foltec, a foliar bio-enhanced nutrition. The products had a “slow acceptance” when first introduced a few years ago, Pope notes. But now that they’ve had time to educate superintendents about the “agronomic rationale to why you want to use these,” Pope says more superintendents are implementing them in their courses’ nutrient programs.

“We look at sustainability as a core concept in serving our customers,” Pope says. “We’re living the whole idea in turf management.”

Looking around, Pope sees other industry companies embracing sustainability.

“A lot of companies are coming up with new technologies, such as propane-powered mowers, to adapt to sustainability,” he says. “It’s a concept that can help you put dollars to the bottom line while increasing the ability to husband the earth.”

While the environment is a key component of sustainability, Pope says many superintendents are turning to sustainability just as much for the economic component.

“Economic realities have made everybody look at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it,” he states.

Most of the superintendents he meets understand the importance of sustainability as it relates to the environment, Pope says.

“Whether they call a particular practice sustainable or not, they understand the need to manage their courses for the long run,” he adds. “They understand they need to apply methods, whether biological, physical, chemical or equipment, to produce the maximum playing surfaces and aesthetics with maximum economy and respect for the environment. This all relates to sustainability.”

Toro Irrigation: A long list of projects

With the world running low on freshwater and the cost of water (including effluent) rising, it’s an exciting and challenging time to be in the irrigation industry, especially in golf course maintenance. Just ask David Angier, the senior marketing manager for Riverside, Calif.-based Toro Irrigation, who realizes how vital his company’s role is in golf and sustainability when it comes to water management.

“We have a long list of new product development projects,” says Angier, noting that they include sprinkler, nozzle, software and field control projects. “We have more projects to do than engineers to work on them.”

In many cases, the projects are all about making existing projects better.

“When superintendents tell us they need a sprinkler that does this or that, that’s the type of requirement we put into the project’s scope,” Angier explains. “We want to build as much innovation as we can into a new product, and we want it to meet the needs of our customers.”

 

Each project has the goal of helping customers better manage their irrigation, Angier says, citing a recent project involving Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California, which was facing the prospect of lower availability and higher costs for its water due to new state mandates.

Robert Trent Jones II led a renovation of Poppy Hills and partnered with Toro Irrigation to conserve water on the course. Toro Irrigation’s Precision-Sense mapping of the original Poppy Hill’s course was done to quantify soil moisture, slope percentage, turf vigor and other factors that affect water use. Poppy installed a new Toro irrigation system, including Toro Lynx Central Control with GDC two-wire field control, sprinklers and 54 Turf Guard sensors to measure moisture content in the soil and provide information used in controlling individual sprinkler heads.

From a sustainability perspective, Toro Irrigation’s goal to help superintendents save water has as much to do with economics as it does with being environmentally responsible. The time is coming when fewer and fewer golf courses will receive free water, Angier says. Not only that, but the electricity to pump water is also getting more costly, says Carl Standifer, Toro Irrigation’s southwest golf sales manager. He notes that the company wants to help superintendents “fine-tune” everything – from water use to power use – to help their courses be more sustainable.

“We’re tying it all together,” Standifer says.