The word “app” is taking on new meaning in golf course maintenance circles. Or, at least, dual meaning. The Greenkeeper app isn’t something you put down with your sprayer or spreader, but something you download on your phone or computer. Which is exactly what more than 1,150 superintendents across the country have done.
Greenkeeper is the creation of Bill Kreuser, assistant professor and extension turfgrass specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“It was something that I wanted to develop since the time when I was a graduate student,” Kreuser says.
The inspiration came from his work developing growing degree-day models using Excel spreadsheets; those were helpful, but required users to enter their weather data manually.
“I wanted to have something where all the model data was in there…and that would automatically link to the weather for the user, and also keep track of their products,” he says.
The initial vision for the Greenkeeper app was to help superintendents decide about plant growth regulators, and that is its most popular feature at the moment, Kreuser says.
“If they are using PGR models to predict when to reapply and how much suppression they’re getting, this simplifies everything for them,” he explains.
But the app has a number of other benefits.
The app currently has information for about 300 products and more will be added.
“It can give spray recommendations for how much to mix, how many tanks you need, how much mix goes into a full or partial tank, and so on,” Kreuser says.
It also incorporates mixing instructions and even recordkeeping capabilities.
“So, if you need that information for your state, you can access it all really easily,” Kreuser notes.
The app also serves a social media function, so to speak. Superintendent s can quickly and easily tag up to three pests they are targeting with a given application, and whether the treatment is intended to be preventive or curative. This information then automatically creates an anonymous (in order to protect privacy and personal data, there’s no record of specific superintendents, golf courses, etc.) pest report that other Greenkeeper app users within a 150-mile circle can see, helping give them a head’s up as to what pests might be coming their way (or when preemergents are being applied, etc.) and how other superintendents are treating the problem.
Additional features are coming. “Right now it’s mainly product tracking, inventory management, application mixing instructions and pest reporting…but we have a whole list of different things that we want to do with the app,” Kreuser says. Already in the works are a soil test interpreter, fertility calculations and enhanced (more site-specific) weather data, which would eventually allow for turf disease modeling to be included in the app.
Kreuser says he’s good with databases, but not necessarily a “tech guy,” so a computer programmer in Lincoln was hired to handle the actual technical design and maintenance of the app, with Kreuser directing the features and content and databases that make it all work.
The result is the kind of tool that superintendents just a decade or two ago could only have dreamed of. And thanks to support from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it’s free to use.
Kreuser adds that Nufarm recently stepped forward with a donation to become the first official sponsor of Greenkeeper.
“They’re getting nothing out of it, they just see the benefit of the technology,” he states, adding that other product manufacturers may come onboard as they realize how the app can increase the chances that their products are applied properly and minimize the risks of wrong decisions being made in the field.
And, he says, the feedback from superintendents using the app has been very valuable in working out technical bugs, adding new features and making other improvements.
“We’re just trying to make it the best product we possibly can,” Kreuser says.
Download the app on their website.