What gets studied at the O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research and Education Facility touches the lives – or rather the feet – of virtually everyone in the state. Wisconsin has an estimated 300,000 acres of turfgrass, covering yards, parks, roadsides, golf courses, athletic fields and sod farms. In acreage, it’s the state’s fifth biggest crop. Wisconsin’s turfgrass is the base of a nearly one-billion-dollar-a-year industry that employs more than 30,000 people.
The O.J. Noer facility was developed by the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association in partnership with the UW Foundation and Agricultural Research Stations in the early 1990s, opening in 1992. The station started with 13 acres; 3 more were added in the late 1990s and an additional 10 were added in the early 2000s to accommodate a growing need for research space.
Researchers use the Noer facility to compare different turfgrass varieties, mowing practices, equipment and strategies for fertilizer, irrigation and pest management. There are typically 70-80 or more projects conducted at the facility each year. Many of the projects are aimed at providing short-term information for Wisconsin’s turf industry (sod production, golf courses, lawn care, sports fields, etc.). A growing number of the studies are aimed at mid- to long-term objectives aimed at providing information for science-based regulations and a more sustainable society. A short list of the types of studies is given below.
Examples of studies conducted at the OJ Noer Facility
- Low Input Sustainable Turf-NCERA-192 trial
- 10+ cultivar evaluation trials, including six from National Turfgrass Evaluation Program
- Rain Harvesting/subsurface irrigation
- Runoff and leachate studies: 15 yrs of various studies with nutrients, pesticides, and Rain Gardens
- Early season dollar spot control
- Fungicide degradation
- Pest management
- Biosolids for sustainable sod production
The Noer facility also plays an important educational role. Classes in horticulture, soils, entomology and plant pathology often meet at the facility. Professionals from turf related industries – like irrigation, pest management, nutrient/seed supplies, and turf equipment – hold seminars at Noer. The facility is also home to the UW-Madison Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab, where homeowners and professional turf managers call to get unbiased, science based answers to all their turf related questions. Every summer the Noer facility cooperates with the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association in conducting a field day where researchers present their latest findings. In addition to providing an opportunity to meet with the researchers, this event includes a trade show where visitors can test new equipment and learn about all the latest products available to the industry.