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Faculty, staff and students within the University of Tennessee Turfgrass Science and Management program recently launched a new digital learning series for 2020 titled Tennessee Turf Tuesday.

This live interactive series aims to provide individuals managing golf courses, sports fields, residential/commercial lawns and sod farms the latest research on optimizing turfgrass aesthetic and functional quality via sustainable cultural and pest management practices.

The series takes place in the form of live webinars, conducted through Zoom, that are held on the first Tuesday of every month from May through October 2020.

In addition to being a platform for research sharing, the webinars also serve as an opportunity for Continuing Education Units and Recertification Credits for individuals who are involved in turfgrass management and pest treatment.

 Jim Brosnan, a professor in the Plant Sciences Department and head of the Weed Diagnostic Center, elaborated on how this series came about and discussed the important role that he sees it fulfilling.

“With recent events this spring and the University closing many of its facilities to the public, we were very limited in our ability to connect with stakeholders across the state of Tennessee,” Brosnan said.

“Usually, the Turf program hosts a very large educational event in late August every year that is known as the Turf and Ornamental Field Day,” Brosnan said. “We usually get 500 to 550 attendees from the green industry coming from an array of surrounding states. This event was really an opportunity for us to showcase all of our research, talk about what we learned from this research and how it can help the green industry moving forward, and it provides those who attend opportunities for Continuing Education Units and Recertification Credits.”

However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brosnan and his staff saw the uncertainty of holding such a large event this year, and that is how the webinar idea came about.

“How could we come up with a way digitally to interface with our clientele, give them the field day experience and do it in a way where we would be safe and distanced in light of all that is going on,” Brosnan said. “We looked at different platforms. We felt that the Zoom webinar approach would allow us to showcase the work, virtually take the attendee to the plot and show them what is there and add a human component where you can see the speaker, hear their voice and directly ask them questions.”

Greg Breeden, an extension specialist in the Plant Sciences Department, also spoke about the important purpose of this series and the benefits of the Zoom webinar model.

“With the COVID outbreak there was a need for a way to educate turf managers without holding the traditional in person meetings,” Breeden said. “This format has proven to be a viable option while maintaining some level of personal contact. It has also allowed them (turf managers) to keep their certification up to date by gaining the required points (credit hours of trading).”

In addition to serving as an educational platform for research sharing, Brosnan explained the impact of the webinar series on the turfgrass industry as a whole and elaborated on how this project aligns with UT’s purpose as a land-grant university. 

“The turfgrass industry is a $5.6 billion industry in the state of Tennessee, and it is one that has a significant economic impact on the state,” Brosnan said. “There are a multitude of benefits, both societally and environmentally, for maintaining turfgrass that range from atmospheric improvements and cooling to improvements in water quality and erosion control. As a land-grant institution and university, we want to do what we can to service those in the industry that are managing this commodity.” 

Brosnan also stressed out that many turfgrass operations have remained opened and in service during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so in keeping with the University’s mission and vision as a land-grant university, it essential to support and serve them.  

“During COVID, many of our turfgrass operations have remained opened, and they’ve had the same challenges and problems that they’ve always had, and more have now come along, and so as the land-grant university for the state, it is our duty to be here to serve them and that is what we hope this webinar series will help do,” Brosnan said.

To learn more about the webinar sessions and register for a session, you can learn more by visiting the TN Turf Tuesday site right here: http://tennesseeturfgrassweeds.org/Pages/TurfTuesday.aspx

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