The Grass is Greener

UGA debuts turfgrass facilities on Athens, Griffin and Tifton campuses

University of Georgia, state and industry leaders officially opened new UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences turfgrass research and education facilities on the university’s Athens, Griffin and Tifton campuses on Sept. 21. UGA-Griffin houses the largest of the new facilities and served as the site of the ribbon cutting.

During the 2014 legislative session, Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly appropriated funds for the statewide turfgrass facilities enhancement project, which was also supported by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

At UGA-Griffin, the new turfgrass research building sits adjacent to the turfgrass research plots. The building houses offices for seven turfgrass scientists, staff, postdoctoral research associates, visiting scientists and graduate students. It includes labs, conference and classroom spaces, and attached greenhouses.

“Even though we have an excellent team, our buildings and greenhouses were old. Now we have state-of-the-art facilities and the team can be located in the same building,” said Paul Raymer, UGA-Griffin professor and turfgrass breeder. “Entomologists, plant pathologists, agronomists and support staff were scattered across campus in six or seven buildings. Now we can work together in a facility designed to support our turfgrass research program.”

The funds replaced antiquated facilities at UGA-Tifton with new greenhouses and a headhouse to support UGA’s expanding warm-season turf breeding program.

“The grass breeding program in Tifton has developed turf and forage grasses during the past 60 years that have been used successfully on every continent except Antarctica,” said Brian Schwartz, UGA-Tifton associate professor and turfgrass breeder. “Even with aging facilities, cultivars like ‘Tifton 85,’ ‘TifBlair,’ ‘TifEagle’ and ‘TifTuf’ have successfully entered and dominated the marketplace over the last 30 years.”
UGA-Athens turfgrass faculty now have new greenhouses and a combination classroom and office complex to use for undergraduate teaching and research programs.

“These world-class facilities will enhance UGA’s undergraduate and graduate education programs, enable our turfgrass scientists to conduct innovative research, and position the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to retain and recruit the top turfgrass scientists necessary to ensure a prosperous future for the vital Georgia turfgrass industry,” said CAES Dean and Director Sam Pardue.

UGA-bred turfgrasses cover lawns, championship golf courses, urban green spaces, and Major League and Little League playing fields across the world. Since 1990, the UGA Turfgrass Team has generated close to $12 million in royalty income, with a significant portion of the revenue returned to UGA turfgrass research.

By Sharon Dowdy Cruse

New turfgrass research and education facilities can now be found on each of CAES’s three campuses. The UGA Griffin campus is the site of the largest of the three facilities.