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Researching the Future of Turfgrass Management

Dr. Johnston with student at turf plots.

Ever increasing costs and environmental concerns demand turfgrass cultivars and management techniques that reduce consumption of fuels, fertilizers, pesticides, and water as well as post harvest field burning. Dr. William J. Johnston has spent the past 32 years conducting turfgrass research to enable WSU Extension specialists to make the best turfgrass management recommendations for the region.

The fate of pesticides applied to golf courses is an increasing concern to the public, regulatory agencies, and golf course maintenance personnel. Since 1997, Johnston and his research team have worked to identify environmentally friendly, efficacious fungicides to control snow mold disease in the Pacific Northwest. This research has led to several new compounds now available to the turfgrass industry to control this major disease.  Currently, Dr. Johnston is researching the efficacy of methiozolin to selectively control annual bluegrass on golf course greens and fairways.

Approximately 75 percent of the U.S. Kentucky bluegrass seed is produced in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. The ban on field burning in Washington state is causing economic stress for grass seed producers. Working collaboratively with the USDA, Dr. Johnston has shown bluegrass yields are reduced by 27 percent when residue is removed simply by baling. Therefore, baling alone will not attain desirable seed yields.

Although cultivar development is a long-term process, excellent progress has been made toward the goal of developing high seed yielding, turf-type bluegrasses that do not require field burning. Dr. Johnston’s team has identified genetic variation for seed production and is in the process of developing germplasm for non-burn systems. On-farm testing will be done to determine seed yield without burning, while turfgrass quality will be evaluated in university trials.

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Contact Information
William J. Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor of Turfgrass Science
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences

Washington State University
PO Box 646420
Johnson Hall 219
Pullman, WA 99164-6420

Telephone: 509-335-3620
Fax: 509-335-8674

Bill Johnston
Dr. William J. Johnston
grew up working on an 18-hole golf course owned by his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his B.S. in Geology from Penn State University and worked as a geologist in Idaho and Montana.

After a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he returned to his roots and earned a M.S. (1974) and Ph.D. (1980) from Auburn University in agronomy, specializing in turfgrass science. He joined the Washington State University faculty in 1980 and is a professor of crop science. His current research is focused on turfgrass snow mold disease control, and the selective control of annual bluegrass in cool-season grasses with mesotrione and methiozolin.  He is also evaluating bluegrass germplasm in order to develop a high-yielding, turf-type bluegrass that will not require post-harvest field burning. The research of he and his graduate students has lead to over 60 refereed publications and numerous national and international conference proceedings and presentations. His research has been supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Golf Association, Northwest Turfgrass Association, Washington State Department of Ecology, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, golf course superintendent groups, commodity commissions, and private industry.