Turf Science and Management

In the United States, most people have some interaction with turfgrass every day. Turfgrass is grown in our lawns, parks, golf courses, and sport fields. It covers roadsides, airports, cemeteries, and workplace landscapes. Turfgrasses are highly functional, not just aesthetic. They enhance water infiltration, generate oxygen, reduce glare, and provide cushioned and resilient playing surfaces for our favorite sports. Our research focuses on management practices that result in healthy, functional turfgrasses beneficial to the environment around us.

In Washington State, turfgrass research is conducted in distinct environments on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. Hundreds of turfgrass varieties of many different species are evaluated in order to identify those most adaptable with respect to growth, function, and tolerance to weeds, diseases, insects, and environmental stresses. Grasses are evaluated under various conditions, representative of where they’ll be planted. We also study man-made stresses, such as the impacts of player use on sports fields, and management practices that help keep these fields safe and playable.

Impacts of turfgrass management practices on environmental quality receive a great deal of public attention. Our research at Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, has transformed the world’s only floating golf course putting green into a living laboratory. In the Puget Sound region, we are studying ways to preserve water quality and protect wildlife habitat in urban streams and lakes.

Additional research investigates effective means of limiting weed, insect, and disease infestations. We focus on the use of cultural management strategies (such as fertilizers and mowing) and new, lower environmental impact pesticides and their effectiveness in managing these pests.

Lastly, before there is turfgrass there is seed.  With environmental restrictions on field burning, Washington State seed growers are facing hard economic times; therefore, we are working on developing high yielding, turf-type bluegrass varieties that do not require post-harvest burning.

Professor, turfgrass science
William Johnston
Profile / Spotlight


Related pages:

Par for the course

Palouse Ridge Receives National Recognition

Golfweek magazine recently ranked WSU’s Palouse Ridge Golf Club among the top three campus golf courses in America. Read more.

New Golf Course as Classroom

Washington State University’s newest academic facility (photo above) features the largest state-of-the-science classroom and laboratory on campus: 315 acres large to be exact. But then it also has 18 holes and a pro shop. Read more.