Education Highlights

Education Sessions:

Tuesday, February 19:

Creating a Pivot Point: Leveraging Change Without Sacrificing Results
Shawn Rhodes, former US military war correspondent

In the world of turfgrass, the best plans never work out as planned. To address the constant challenge of managing change and ensuring goals achieve results, TEDx speaker and nationally-syndicated columnist Shawn Rhodes will share how the best teams and organizations across industries are: 

  • Planning for their plans to change
  • Leveraging change when it occurs
  • Ensuring the experiences of senior leaders don't leave when the people do

Shawn Rhodes is an international expert in creating high-performing organizations. He's a Tampa-based TEDx speaker and his work studying organizations in more than two dozen countries has been published in news outlets around the world including TIME, CNN, NBC, Forbes and INC. His clients have included Deloitte, ConAgra, Serta-Sealy and dozens of similar businesses. Shawn is also a nationally-syndicated columnist with the Business Journals and author of the new book "Pivot Point: Turn On A Dime Without Sacrificing Results."

Business Office Best Practices
Panel Discussion

Members of this panel will discuss innovative practices implemented in their offices that increase farm productivity and efficiency. Prepare to learn and walk away with new ideas for your office!

Preparing for & Adjusting to Change in Your Workplace
Shawn Rhodes, former US military war correspondent

Principles & Practices for Extending Sod Shelf-Life - Funded by TLI
Roch Gaussoin, PhD
Jay McCurdy, PhD

As soon as it’s harvested, sod begins to decline in health and ability to transplant successfully. Sod shelf-life can be limited by many variables, including internal pallet temperature as well as lack of light and moisture. The principals for success include: harvest healthy grass that’s not too thatchy or over fertilized, keep sod cool during storage and transport, prevent desiccation of exposed sod edges, moist but not excessively wet sod bed, irrigate immediately upon installation. Ongoing research suggests that other practices may help extend the time that sod can remain on pallet. Join Drs. Gaussoin and McCurdy as they discuss this important and timely topic.


Roch E. Gaussoin, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of agronomy and horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He earned his bachelors and master’s degrees at New Mexico State University and his Ph.D. at Michigan State University. Gaussoin is currently teaching in the Global Undergraduate Programming area at UNL, working with students from Rwanda. Gaussoin’s excellence in the turfgrass industry has been well-documented through the numerous awards he has received, including the Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America, the Distinguished Service Award from the Nebraska Turfgrass Association, and the Exceptional Service Award from the Nebraska Golf Course Superintendents Association and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award.


Jay McCurdy, PhD,
is an assistant professor and extension specialist at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi. He earned a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil sciences from the University of Tennessee-Martin, a master’s degree in plant sciences from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and a doctorate in agronomy and soils from Auburn University. McCurdy grew up on sod farm in western Tennessee and was the inaugural winner of The Lawn Institute’s Dr. Henry W. Indyk Scholarship. His research interests include turfgrass weed ecology and management, herbicide resistance, pesticide fate, sod production, and wildlife habitat inclusion within urban environments. He serves as an academic liaison for the Louisiana-Mississippi Golf Course Superintendent’s Association and is advisor for the Mississippi Turfgrass Association.


Breakout # 1 - 1:30 - 2:30 pm

Natural Turfgrass Consumer Research and Upcoming Public Relations Initiative
Casey Reynolds, PhD
Representatives from FleishmanHillard

Join TPI's own Dr. Casey Reynolds to hear the latest from TPI's consumer research and public relations initiative on natural turfgrass. This session will discuss what reasons people cite for choosing natural grass and introduce TPI’s new tools that will help you to promote, market, and brand natural turfgrass locally!

Turfgrass May Not be as Thirsty as Your Neighbors Think - Funded by TLI
Douglas Karcher, Phd
John C. Stier, PhD

Join us to learn the how much water turf really uses as we show results from a Lawn Institute study from six states ranging from the West to East coasts, Upper Midwest to the South. Learn new information from the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) and the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) on cultivars that can retain green color during drought, and how soil moisture and rainfall sensors can aid smart irrigation for lawns.


Douglas Karcher, PhD,
is a Professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Arkansas. He earned his B.S. from The Ohio State University and his master’s and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Karcher’s research interests focus on soil physical properties, water and organic matter management, cultural practices, fertility and technology. Besides maintaining an extensive research program, he serves on the Arkansas Turfgrass Association Board and is a former chair of the Turfgrass Science Division of the Crop Science Society of America. In addition to participation in numerous state and regional turf conferences across the United States, Karcher has lectured in Spain, Germany, Italy and Thailand on various topics including water management, foliar fertility and soil cultivation.


John Stier, Ph.D.,
is a professor and associate dean for the Herbert College of Agriculture al Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He earned his B.S. and master's degrees at The Ohio State University and his Ph.D. at Michigan State University. Stier’s research revolves around various environmental issues and management of turfgrass (e.g., nutrient and pesticide fate, invasive grasses, carbon sequestration), shade and cold stress, herbicides, and weed management. His excellence in the turfgrass industry has been well-documented through the numerous awards he has received, including the Martin & Ruth Massengale Lectureship from the Crop Science Society of America, the Robert G. and Hazel T. Spitze Land Grant Faculty Award, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and School of Human Ecology, Univ. Wisconsin-Madison for excellence in teaching, research, and service, Pound Extension Award, UW-College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; the Excellence in Research Award, Seed Research of Oregon; and he has been recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency for the schools integrated pest management program. He has also been honored as a Fellow in both the Agronomy Society of America and the Crop Science Society of America, which is the most prestigious award offered by both societies. In addition to participation in many state and regional turfgrass conferences around the United States, Stier has lectured on in Argentina and Germany on shaded turf. He enjoys soccer, bicycling, reading, hiking as well as spending time with his family in his spare time.


What Drives the Market: Pricing, Marketing, & Forcasting

Benjamin Campbell, PhD

You cannot run a successful turfgrass business without understanding the business side of turf production.

Come learn about

  • how the turf market has and is evolving and what these changes mean to your business;
  • different pricing strategies--find out how to choose the strategy that works best for your business;
  • various ways to forecast demand and how these forecasts should drive your decision making.

Breakout # 2 - 2:45 - 3:45 pm

What I Wish I'd Known
Panel Discussion

Turfgrass May Not be as Thirsty as Your Neighbors Think - Funded by TLI
Douglas Karcher, PhD
John C. Stier, PhD

What Drives the Market: Pricing, Marketing, & Forcasting
Benjamin Campbell, PhD

Wednesday, February 20:

Education Session: 9:00 - 10:30 am


The Grass is Always Greener...Until It Isn't: The Changing Perceptions of Public Opinion

Phil Davis, Tungsten Branding

The turfgrass industry faces daily challenges from groups who question the its maintenance requirements, its hardiness as a playing surface, or its environmental value. Come hear how industries such as the dairy, pork or egg industries have successfully rebranded themselves in the face of perception challenges and find out what we as turfgrass producers can learn from these industries.

With over 25 years of brand name development experience, Phil Davis is one of the most quoted company naming experts globally. Phil's branding articles are frequently referenced by those researching and publishing branding related topics. He was recognized with a Price Waterhouse Up and Comer Award at the start of his career and continued by building a marketing firm that attracted a broad range of retail, medical, industrial and B2B clientele. Phil has worked regionally, nationally and internationally to build clear, compelling brand identities that convey a cohesive message. His commitment to brand clarity is the hallmark of Tungsten Branding. When not actively naming a company, Phil speaks on the subject of "brilliant branding" and best industry practices. He has served as both keynote branding speaker, as well as subject matter expert on brand development.

Natural Turfgrass Consumer Research and Upcoming Public Relations Initiative
Casey Reynolds, PhD
Representatives from FleishmanHillard

Join TPI's own Dr. Casey Reynolds to hear the latest from TPI's consumer research and public relations initiative on natural turfgrass. This session will discuss what reasons people cite for choosing natural grass and introduce TPI’s new tools that will help you to promote, market, and brand natural turfgrass locally!


Plant & Soil Interaction for Turfgrass Producers
Nick Christians, PhD
Adam Thoms, PhD

Come learn as two leading soil health experts join together to talk about the nutrient levels in in your soil. They will cover both macro and micro nutrients, as well as discuss at what levels deficiencies occur. You will learn how to manage soil pH to improve growth and how to identify problems in the field, especially during establishment.

Attendees are encouraged to send their soil tests to Dr. Christians and Dr. Thoms in advance or bring them to the presentation for discussion. Contact Karen Cooper at kcooper@TurfGrassSod.org for more information.

Nick Christians, Ph.D., is a professor of horticulture at Iowa State University. He earned his B.S. degree at Colorado State University and his master's and Ph.D. at The Ohio State University. Christians’ research focuses on turfgrass fertility, weed control, growth regulators and naturally occurring herbicides for the turf industry. His university appointment consists of a blend of teaching and research. His excellence in the turfgrass industry has been well-documented through the numerous awards, including  the Iowa State Horticultural Society Honor Award, an appointment to the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation Board of Directors, the Fred Grau Turfgrass Research Award from the Crop Science Society of America, the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa GCSA and the Meritorious Service Award from the Iowa Turfgrass Institute.

In addition to his participation in many state and regional turfgrass conferences around the United States, Christians has lectured on basic turfgrass management in Spain, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Japan.  In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his grandchildren.


Adam Thoms, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the department of horticulture at Iowa State University. He earned his B.S. in horticulture with the turfgrass option from Iowa State University, a master’s in plant science in the turfgrass option from the University of Tennessee and his Ph.D. in plants, insects and soils from the University of Tennessee. His appointment allows him the opportunity to be involved with extension, research and teaching. Thoms’ research focuses on the performance of turfgrasses subjected to various management techniques.

Innovative Farm Management
Diane & Greg Mischel

Join Greg and Diane Mischel as they discuss the innovations they’ve implemented as third-generation growers. Diane grew up on a farm started by her grandparents. She earned a degree in Crop and Soil Sciences with a specialization in turfgrass management from Michigan State University and Greg joined her on the farm with a degree in horticulture from MSU and some experience from the greenhouse business after they married. Come learn about how they’ve combined Diane’s experience with Greg’s “fresh eyes” to make cost-effective changes and updates.

What I Wish I'd Known
Panel Discussion

Plant & Soil Interaction for Turfgrass Producers
Nick Christians, PhD
Adam Thoms, PhD

Principles & Practices for Extending Sod Shelf-Life - Funded by TLI
Roch Gaussoin, PhD
Jay McCurdy, PhD

Show & Tell - 3:30 - 5:00 pm


John Keleher, Australian Lawn Concepts

Currently the Managing Director of Australian Lawn Concepts (ALC), Glenview Turf, CT Lawns, and Firefly Automatic Australia, John Keleher began his turfgrass career with the purchase of his first turfgrass farm in 2004 in the Gold Coast Hinterland. John’s previous life began on the family farm and then onto university, where he trained as an Agronomist. He applied those skills in research and development with major fertiliser/chemical companies and then in sales before establishing and operating a rural consulting business and leasing farming land.

This background proved invaluable for his foray into the turfgrass industry. John, along with his business partner Sandy Bauman, has developed his farm into one of Australia’s leading turfgrass suppliers located in southeast Queensland. ALC now produces more than 150 hectares of warm-season grasses and has embraced innovations in irrigation, fertigation, harvesting, and on-farm management practises such as precision agriculture. In 2016, ALC installed the first variable-rate irrigation system in the Australian turfgrass industry. ALC continues to drive investments on its own and within the wider turfgrass industry to improve best management practices of turfgrass growing.

Whilst the farm is the primary concern for John, the turfgrass industry and associated stakeholders are important, and he has provided many hours of time into helping progress the Australian turfgrass industry. By 2008, John was vice-president of Turf Queensland and in 2009, he was elected president of Turf Queensland. Whilst president of Turf Queensland, he helped created the Qld Turf Accreditation Programme (TAP), bringing to the forefront best growing practices and quality assurance for consumers. In 2011, he was appointed onto the Industry Advisory Committee for Horticulture Australia Ltd., and in 2012, he was the ABC Kondinin Group’s National Farmer of the Year and Turf Australia President. John continues to be involved in improving the turfgrass industry with a recent appointment onto the TurfBreed board – a new entrant into supplying turfgrass genetics to the Australian turfgrass industry.



 Bob McCurdy, McCurdy Farms

In 1980, Bob McCurdy graduated with an agriculture degree from The University of Tennessee at Martin and returned to the family farm. After a few years of 18 percent interest rates and low commodity prices, Bob and his father started doing some erosion control contracting and realized the need for turfgrass sod on many projects. Starting with two acres of bermudagrass, the farm has grown to include both certified and non-certified Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, and Tall fescue. Other products grown are livestock, row crops, and pumpkins.

The McCurdy family has spent a lot of time in succession planning, and the formation of an LLC that includes daughter Liz, and her husband Ben. Additionally, Bob and his wife Suzanne have two sons: Jay is the Turfgrass Extension Specialist for the state of Mississippi and Tom is a Navy pilot serving in the Pacific, on the USS Ronald Reagan. Bob is honored to have an opportunity to serve on the TPI board beginning in 2019.


Aaron McWhorter, NG Turf

In 1980, Bob McCurdy graduated with an agriculture degree from The University of Tennessee at Martin and returned to the family farm. After a few years of 18 percent interest rates and low commodity prices, Bob and his father started doing some erosion control contracting and realized the need for turfgrass sod on many projects. Starting with two acres of bermudagrass, the farm has grown to include both certified and non-certified Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, and Tall fescue. Other products grown are livestock, row crops, and pumpkins. 

The McCurdy family has spent a lot of time in succession planning, and the formation of an LLC that includes daughter Liz, and her husband Ben. Additionally, Bob and his wife Suzanne have two sons: Jay is the Turfgrass Extension Specialist for the state of Mississippi and Tom is a Navy pilot serving in the Pacific, on the USS Ronald Reagan. Bob is honored to have an opportunity to serve on the TPI board beginning in 2019.

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