June 2017

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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32 SportsTurf | June 2017 FACILITY & OPERATIONS developed a marketing strategy based on different quality levels of sod. "Ben's goal was to get the agreement to form the international organization," says Jim. "Some producers in the East wanted to limit it to a national organization, keeping their Canadian competitors out of it. Finally Ben overcame that opposition. And stiffer competition convinced those that had been guarding what they thought were secrets to realize they could all benefit from sharing information to help grow a better product." The official establishment of the American Sod Producers Association (ASPA) took place on July 11, 1967, in conjunction with an MSU Turfgrass Field Day. Jim says, "Following their visit to the MSU sod farm, a group gathered in the evening in the MSU animal science building and worked out the key organizational details. Ben Warren, who had been the driving force in all this, sat in the background and I was there beside him. I felt very strongly that if their organization was going to succeed, it had to be established by the sod producers themselves. The academic arm needed to provide research data, technical support and the meeting facilities and opportunities to help them grow." The following day, those gathered toured two sites, Bob Daymon's Emerald Valley Turf Farm and Daymon Manufacturing Corporation, and Bill Johnsons' operations at Halmick Sod Nursery. Jim says, "We'd been able to set up the tour quickly with the help of local sod producers and several suppliers." The second year's summer Field Day was held at Rutgers University. It returned to MSU the following year. Jim says, "Dr. Bill Daniels, from Purdue; Dr. Henry Indyk from Rutgers, and Dr. Jim Watson of the Toro Company also were deeply involved during those early days. Henry served as the first executive director." Dr. Beard's "Evolution of Turfgrass Sod" is included in the History of Turfgrass Producers International, which was developed for the 40th Anniversary of TPI. Reviewing the decades covered in that publication reveals the depth of assistance Dr. Beard provided. He became TPI's second Honorary Member in 1975. Dr. Indyk was the first in 1973. Harriet typed the programs for the field days and the research reports. She handled registrations and the sign up for mailings and collected the money for the lunches, working alongside University department personnel. Jim says, "She was the meet and greet person and got to know everyone. Most sod farms are family operations made up of people who work hard to be successful. We made some great friends among those sod producers, most of them the fathers of the generation running the business now, and Harriet was the instigator of inviting folks over for dinner or hors d'oeuvres." Jim's work with the Michigan Turf Foundation also was supported by Harriet, serving as executive secretary, with no pay. Harriet chimes in with, "I don't get paid now—but I get my share anyhow. When Jim started the International Sports Turf Institute we looked into giving me a salary and determined that only the government would benefit from it. My role has been rewarding in so many more ways than a paycheck." Jim reports, "A few years ago, I was asked to do a series of half-day lectures including one covering the old sod production research we did on that original MSU sod farm. Sod strength and transplant rooting were new concepts. We were faced with establishing the criteria for both and developing the measurement techniques for them. "We were the first to research the heating of sod during shipping. Dr. John King did that research for his PhD. A sod farm would ship out three to five trailer loads of sod per day to a Pennsylvania site and would haul back steel. They could market to that distance rather inexpensively when they had a load both ways and it worked well for all involved. John would ride in a truck all night and get out at intervals to take compression measures and measure the heat, trying to figure out all the problems." Dr. Beard states the original net sod production took place on the research farm. "Dr. Brian Mercer from England developed the extrusion process that developed the mesh netting in a continuous flow. It was much cheaper to produce than the earlier bonding method and could be set up for different thicknesses," says Jim. "He had read some of my research and showed up at my MSU office looking for Dr. Beard. He was surprised to find someone so young, but funded the research anyway. His netting was used at the Tokyo airport to reduce wear on the runway; in olive harvesting to keep the olives off the ground while separating them from the leaves; and in deserts as vertical windbreaks to cut down blowing sand around watering holes. We found we could seed Kentucky bluegrass into that netting and it would hold together in ten days." Mercer's father or grandfather had invented mercerized cloth. Jim says, "Brian had the same type of mind, continually developing ideas and marketing them. He became a very good friend and one of our more wealthy connections." This photo of Dr. James B Beard checking a turfgrass root system made its way to the pages of Life magazine, where it was titled, "Headless Turfgrass Researcher at Work." PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DR. JAMES B AND HARRIET BEARD COLLECTION.

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