The University of Tennessee’s turfgrass management research and teaching program is expanding its faculty due to the generous support of one of its prime cooperators.

The UT Athletic Department has committed to fund a new faculty member in the turfgrass research and teaching program of the UT Department of Plant Sciences. The UT Athletic Department will donate a total of $535,000 over five fiscal years to support the new research and teaching position within the program.

“The Athletic Department has long cooperated with our faculty providing opportunities for research, teaching and consulting with their various sports fields. We think this is a wonderful extension of that partnership and are very appreciative of their support,” said Dr. Joseph DiPietro, UT Vice President for Agriculture, which houses the Department of Plant Sciences.  

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“We have long had a great relationship with the Institute of Agriculture,” said UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton. “Our relationship has allowed turfgrass management students real laboratories for learning, and we have utilized their faculty’s immense expertise in our facilities.” Hamilton called the new collaboration to expand the turfgrass program a “winning proposition for everyone.” 

Turfgrass management pervades society – from private golf courses to public soccer fields and international sports venues like the Olympics. The turfgrass science research program at UT is geared toward useful and practical issues that impact the turfgrass industry, including field integrity which can affect safety. Research areas include golf turf, sports turf, sod production, home and commercial lawns, and turf breeding. Students who study turfgrass science have an opportunity to literally study in the field at some of the world’s finest facilities, including professional baseball and football stadiums and PGA championship golf courses.

Dr. John Sorochan, associate professor of plant sciences, is excited about adding a colleague to the program. “We’ve already initiated the search procedure,” he said.

While Sorochan would like to have the position filled as early as January or February, he says a more likely start date for the new faculty member is May 2009. The successful candidate will be expected to manage a research program as well as teach undergraduate courses in the turfgrass science and management and to serve as a faculty sponsor of the program’s student club.

According to the Lawn Institute, a not-for-profit corporation created in 1955 to assist in and encourage the improvement of lawns and sports turf through research and education, the annual value of the U.S. turfgrass industry was $35 billion in 2004 and total acres of turf in the U.S. was estimated to be 46.5 million acres.

Turfgrass science and management is among the popular concentrations in the plant sciences degree program of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). In addition to the teaching mission of CASNR, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the College of Veterinary Medicine, the UT AgResearch statewide system of scientists and research and education centers and UT Extension offices in every county in Tennessee.

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