Dedicated to Better Turf Through Research and Education

THE HISTORY OF THE WTA (Written Spring 2008)

The Wisconsin Turfgrass Association began in 1981, when nine dedicated turf professionals came together to form the organization. These nine individuals (listed below) realized that to solve local turf problems, research had to be done locally. Their first goal was to fund research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study turfgrass problems that challenged Wisconsin golf courses, sod farms, cemeteries, commercial grounds, and homelawns. The second goal was to disseminate research findings to turfgrass professionals in order to help them grow healthier turfgrass and care for the environment.

With education being the second component in the WTA’s mission, the Winter Turfgrass and Greenscape EXPO was started in January 1982. The first EXPO was held at the public events center at Arlington Agricultural Research Station, just north of Madison. Arlington also served as host to the inaugural Summer Field Day in 1983. The annual golf tournament began in the early years too, 1982, as a means to raise funds to conduct the turfgrass research that is presented at Field Day and EXPO.

The Golf Fundraiser, EXPO, and Summer Field Day are WTA’s three core annual events to raise funds for research and disseminating education. These three events are estimated to have raised more than $350,000 since 1981. WTA has also raised funds for the greater good in other ways besides these core events. They conducted an effort in 1988 to pull together $250,000 over three years, to build the O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research and Education Facility. When built, they donated the facility to the UW-Madison to become one of their agricultural research stations.

Additionally, four distinguished graduate fellowships have been raised through the WTA from generous donations by the families of Terry and Kathleen Kurth, John and Flora Burbee, and Robert and Diane Newman, along with funds from the Wisconsin Green Industry Federation and over $210,000 donated by the WTA. These fellowships total nearly $1 million, of which the interest on the accounts will be used to fund turfgrass research indefinitely. No other turf program in the country has this many fellowships. And the fellowships would not be there without efforts of your WTA board of directors.

What does the WTA do with your contribution? To date the WTA has given over $380,000 to turfgrass research at the UW-Madison. The WTA has funded research to improve fungicide recommendations, analyze nutrient runoff data to confirm beneficial environmental impacts of turf, discover better ways to grow turf in the shade, investigate new weed management strategies, and so much more.

Additionally the WTA has provided over $30,000 in turf student scholarships. They donated $250,000 to build the Noer Facility, as mentioned earlier. But before the Noer Facility was built, the turf researchers, Drs. Newman, Worf, Love, and Koval had to drive all over the state to install and maintain their research. The WTA not only funded many of these investigations but they also bought the researchers a truck to drive to their studies.

The most recent use of WTA funds was to provide first year funding to hire two new turf professors at the UW-Madison. The UW likely would have hired the professors anyway, but it may have taken five years or more with cutbacks in the University’s budget. The WTA board couldn’t take that chance thus they gave the university $200,000 to speed up the hiring of a new soils professor a year ago and a new plant pathology professor who will start in July, 2008. You will benefit from WTA support whenever you learn from the new professors at a turf conference, attend a university workshop, call the professors with turf problems on your property, read their articles in turf publications, or need a future employee who is educated at the university.

In summary, from 1981 to 2007, the WTA has used your contributions to build the Noer Facility ($250,000), hire two new professors ($200,000), fund turf studies ($380,000), give turf student scholarships ($30,000), contribute to turf fellowships for future research ($210,000), purchase a turf truck ($10,000), and so much more. The totals are amazing for an organization consisting of volunteer board of directors, several UW-Madison faculty and staff, and one administrative secretary. They continue to be dedicated to finding solutions to turfgrass problems and educating the industry on the best way to manage turf. The story of the WTA is still being written today, thanks to the vision of those first dedicated turf professionals.

1981 WTA Board of Directors

Dave Payne Payne Sod Inc.
Ed Devinger Reinders Brothers
Egon Herrmann Loft Seed
George P. Brandt Brandt Sod Farms Inc.
George R. Brandt American Sod
James Huggett Long Island Farms
Marshall Scheibe Scheibe and Scheibe Landscape Contractors
Monroe Miller Blackhawk Country Club
Thomas Harrison Maple Bluff Country Club