The SportsTurf Interview: Dr. Cale Bigelow, Purdue University

This month in “The SportsTurf Interview,” we feature Cale A. Bigelow, PhD, Professor-Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Turf Science and Management, Purdue University. Cale says, “The purpose of my research program is to provide practical information that enables turf managers of all abilities to grow the highest quality turf using the fewest management inputs (e.g. mowing, fertilization, irrigation and pesticides). This is being accomplished by emphasizing adapted turfgrass species and cultivar selection, proper establishment methods and employing sound cultural practices with an emphasis on soil fertility and nutrient management related issues.”

SportsTurf: What topics are you conducting research on currently?

Bigelow: Lots of good stuff! Species and cultivar selection/persistence are always at the forefront of what we are doing. In addition the work into drought-related projects is “mushrooming”! Lots of good stuff about to happen there. Lastly, the whole area of alternative products and using biologicals for turf care is a strong current focus.

SportsTurf: What do you see as the biggest challenges moving forward in turfgrass research?

Bigelow :[Money] for applied/practical projects that benefit our field managers. There simply is not enough money outside of the large projects at a select few universities. But we do the best we can.

SportsTurf: How do you attract students to your turfgrass program?

Bigelow: Much of it is word of mouth. I use social media bit and get a few things via that stream, but our alums are a big help too. The problem though is getting the students an opportunity to experience the hands-on “work” in the summers during high school. Students have a great deal of competing commitments to become “elite” (pick your sport or activity). No time to work when you are at camps or training.

SportsTurf: Has social media impacted your work in any way?

Bigelow: I love it, SM keeps me connected with the newest trends but also our industry.

SportsTurf: How do you think the profession and industry will change in the next 10 years?

Bigelow: Hopefully we will have turf managers that even more technically competent and able to deliver a quality/safe product with the fewest inputs needed. I am excited for these young people and what they will deliver to the table. My hope is that these “professionals” are actually fairly compensated for their education and efforts. That is a real challenge to retention in our industry.

SportsTurf: How do you think the natural turf vs. synthetic turf issue will play out over the next decade?

Bigelow: There will always be a place for both. Climate, intensity of use and user expectations all drive this. Hopefully we will have a better understanding of the risks on both sides. Plain and simple we want our athletes particularly the younger ones to have the safest fields, period!

SportsTurf: How has your career benefitted from being a member of STMA?

Bigelow: Tremendous networking opportunities. I love staying in touch with former students, new and old turf nerd friends and also the ability to see what is new and solutions to practical problems in our industry.

SportsTurf: What are your passions and interests outside of work?

Bigelow: I know it’s a bit cliche but I am really focused on my family and making sure the two young people in my house get launched into the world to make it a better place than it is today. Not exactly sure what they will end up doing for a career but as long as they contribute as citizens with an attitude that is not “All about me!” I’m good with that. In addition, we have two yellow Labradors (age 2-4) that take a bit of time to keep them properly exercised. Beyond that I enjoy tinkering with some DIY home projects and traveling to warm places that involve sandy beaches when I get a chance.