September 2018

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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www.spor 32 // September 2018 my love of a challenge spurred me to step away from the SoccerPlex to start Growing Innovations, a company that works with vendors on creating and expanding technologies for high- use grass fields. Then in May 2015, Natural Grass Advisory Group was born and our #GrassCanTakeMore mission launched. ST: How do you keep up-to-date on emerging technologies and best practices? MINNICK: In short, we DON'T keep up with emerging technologies! Yes, it seems we are working well ahead on a lot. But every day we uncover technologies that have existed for multiple years. A great example is the plant activity sensor we map fields with. It looks and sounds space age. We collect plant activity/plant health in real time and can compare it to the health of the plants at any other given time. It allows traffic stress or disease to be diagnosed well before we see the change with our eyes. But it is NOT space age. The sensor has existed since 2003. Work was done on an athletic field in 2004. Similar was traditional fraze mowing, which was developed in 1999 in Holland. We didn't start working with it in the USA in 2012 and still today people consider it "new." But it is not. To "discover" these things, we are asking questions. The beauty of science and technology is that things are always evolving. We try hard to keep an open mind, realizing we will never "know it all." And even when we think we have it fi gured out, we still might not be right. Testing and data mapping alone has been extremely humbling as data diagnoses so many things that we though we knew but also actually have been wrong. We will never stop learning and evolving. It's so exciting! ST: What's the best piece of turf management advice you have ever received? MINNICK: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." Early in my management career, I was still extremely intimidated by all the numbers on a soil test report. So I still was relying on my sales reps to guide me with them. That combination kept my fertility approach essentially the same from year to year, no matter what the soil test said. During a grow-in, we could not get the sod to root onto a new sand-based fi eld, even though we just kept throwing fertilizer at it. One night I was just staring at the roots and I asked myself "why will they start to grow, but then they will not grow DOWN into the sand. CLEARLY there was an issue in the sand and we needed to quantify it. We had a soil test already, but my sales reps were the ones who were breaking it down for me. I shared the test with an independent soil chemist who I hoped wouldn't laugh at me too much for admitting I had no idea what it said. And sure enough, a pH of 8.8 was the serious limiting factor for rooting. We were throwing all this fertilizer at it and essentially wasting money because it was never going to root. The soil chemist did not make fun of me thankfully, and he changed the early course of my management career by encouraging me to embrace the soil test data instead of fearing it. "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it" he said. And how right he was! SO simple, yet SO profound. ST: What are your passions and interests outside of work? MINNICK: Do turf managers have time for things outside of work?! Ha ha. Fortunately I have not "worked" a day in my entire fi eld management career. And my work crosses into my passions: 1) Leaving this planet in better condition than it was left to us, and 2) Improving the life experiences and opportunities that kids today have compared to ours in the past. High- use natural grass fi elds impact both of those things. And because our rescue dogs have each loved running around on grass, and because I am fortunate enough for NGAG to "take root" quickly where I get to travel and see the work, all of my passions outside of work tie in directly with my passion inside my work. /ST/ SOL-Aer ® Winter Turf Blankets Unique non-woven bi-component fabric: Polypropylene core sheathed in polyethylene provides the latest durability and ultra-insulation technology available on the market. ● Fusion welded seams eliminate conventional sewing. ● Sunlight, water, and air readily penetrate through this tighter-than-woven fabric to grateful turf below. ● Durable: Move and walk on it without damage. ● Mark-On Surface allows magic marker coding for precise, much easier positioning relative to other panels, sprinklers, or other field markers. ● Scissor cut to shape without fraying like others. ● Sealed edging available with grommets every 2.5' Available with SILVER LACE COATING, the exact same coating as on competitive Radiant product. AERFLO.COM 800-823-7356 SOL-Aer Turf Blankets promote earlier, more rapid germination and greening while providing superior frost protection and moisture retention. This gives you better control of cool weather turf issues. Try it and see for yourself!

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