Aerial of Les Bolstad golf course.

Development and Evaluation of Environmental, Social and Economically Sustainable Turfgrass Cultural Systems

Principal Investigator

Brian Horgan

Department and College

Department of Horticultural Science in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number


Funding Type

State of MN (SAES)

Partnering States

  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Wisconsin

Partnering Organizations

  • USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research Service)

Project Start and End Date

July 1, 2017-June 30, 2022

Project Summary

Positive impacts of turf in the urban environment are often overlooked. Urban ecosystem benefits include reduced soil erosion and increased dust control, improved infiltration and filtration of water, decomposition of organic compounds, production of O2, increased organic matter in top layers of soil, urban cooling through evapotranspiration, noise reduction, reduced pests and allergens; reduction in fire hazard through green turfed firebreaks, as well as being a surface for recreational activities, cushioning against injuries (Beard and Green, 1994). More recently, turfgrasses have also been identified as a significant carbon sink (Qian et al. 2003; Qian at al., 2010; Townsend-Small & Czimczik, 2010).

Golf courses in Hennepin and Ramsey counties in MN (urban/suburban communities) comprise 10% of the greenspace. Other greenspaces include parks, cemeteries and homelawns. Golf courses are unique in that they average 150 contiguous acres in size and are often integrated into residential and commercial developments. The industry as a whole is at a crossroads with deferred capital expenditures totaling over $12 billion dollars with an estimated 4,000 golf courses nationwide that require renovations. Maintenance and renovation solutions that increase economic sustainability, social resiliency and environmental stewardship into communities is the focus of a new partnership between the University of Minnesota and the United States Golf Association.

The basis for this work is centered on the premise that we believe the solution to the problem of urban greenspace sustainability/resiliency/productivity will not be found by tweaking existing management practices but rather through a fundamental integration of social, physical and biological sciences in urban communities and involving strategic partnerships (ie: United States Golf Assoc., The Nature Conservancy). This approach brings together colleagues from Carlson School, Humphrey Institute, College of Science and Engineering, Law, the Institute on the Environment, Water Resource Center and the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences. This transdiciplinary approach is not novel within the academy, but is novel within the urban greenspace industries and communities. The proposed solution-based science outlined in this proposal is translatable to cities across the globe as we face increased population density in and around cities.