photo credit: Wildlifecontrol via Flickr
GUELPH Ontario July 29, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release
Safe school grounds and high-quality municipal sports fields maintained without the use of traditional pesticides are the focus of a new University of Guelph-based initiative.
The Turfgrass Outreach Project (TOP) offers support to rural groundkeepers across southern Ontario, providing workshops, training programs and an online knowledge centre.
The project is being run by scientists and educators from the Guelph Turfgrass Institute and is supported by the Knowledge Translation and Transfer program, a new initiative under the University's partnership agreement with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). It sets aside funds for projects that improve the impact of research projects by transforming research knowledge into use for different research audiences across the agriculture, food and rural sectors.
Without cosmetic pesticides - which have not been permitted for use since 2009 - rural groundskeepers have had to make major changes to manage school and municipal sports fields. But so far, public outreach has focused on the impacts on residential lawns and urban sports fields. This is an outstanding need that this project is looking to address, said Eric Lyons, a professor of plant agriculture and TOP project manager.
“Urban areas have often had municipal restrictions in place for a while, but in many cases, rural communities have had to adapt very quickly to managing turf without cosmetic pesticides,” Lyons said. “The education and outreach to deal with that just isn’t in place in rural communities like it has been in urban centres.”
In response, TOP is pulling expertise from the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, U of G’s Ontario Agricultural College and School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, and OMAFRA to create accessible educational opportunities for rural groundskeepers. It’s also partnered with the Sports Turf Association.
“We welcome the chance to learn more about the specific challenges faced by rural schools and municipalities,” said Nicole Markwick, TOP’s project co-ordinator. “For example, the safety of sports fields is important because they are used year-round for various sports and events that impact rural communities economically, socially and environmentally.”
TOP also aims to foster stronger networks for continuing education on sustainable resource management for rural turfgrass managers. It has also partnered with community organizations.
More information about the Turfgrass Outreach Project is available online.