The National Turfgrass Federation (NTF), a Beltsville, MD-based non-profit group which coordinates turf / sod research within the federal government and private industry, launched an initiative earlier this year seeking congressional funds for six Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) labs nationwide. Aimed at federal appropriations for agriculture programs in the next fiscal year (FY2020), this initiative would address growing public demands for green landscapes requiring less maintenance, as well as research for environmental stewardship, ecosystem sustainability, and genomic sequencing for cultivars that are more drought, heat, disease, and traffic tolerant. “This research would enhance turfgrass’s quality and affordability for consumers, while reducing maintenance costs,” says NTF Executive Director Kevin Morris. “Those benefits would directly impact appearance, utility, and multiple contributions for environmental sustainability.” NTF’s $3 million funding request for FY20 would be allocated among six ARS labs in Georgia, Arizona, Utah, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These sites were selected based on best available resources and staff expertise for conducting this research. “NTF views this approach as carving out a dedicated line item appropriation for turfgrass science,” Morris adds. “Establishing a cooperative venture among several ARS labs and their respective regions could broaden the scope of benefits from scientific discovery and provide a collaborative research model that might be useful for future interests.”
In June 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives included NTF’s proposal in their FY20 Agriculture Appropriations measure. The Senate agriculture appropriations panel did not follow suit. Thus, NTF looks to a House / Senate conference in hopes an agreement can be reached that includes all or part of this proposal in a final funding bill. Any expressions of support from turfgrass sod producers to senators and congressmen in those six states slated for ARS research — along with lawmakers representing Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Florida — would be very helpful. “As with any research program, dividends often go beyond where money is initially allocated,” Morris says.
Covering approximately 60 million acres in the U.S, turfgrass is America’s most visible crop. Statistics indicate it is the third largest crop in total value with estimates exceeding $60 billion annually. Home and commercial landscapes comprise 65-70% of turfgrass acreage with roadsides, parks, sports fields, golf courses, cemeteries, airports, and sod / seed production comprising most of the remaining acreage. Turf industries, which covers commercial & residential lawn care, golf course and sports field management, roadside maintenance, public parks, and product sales and services, employs approximately 1 million people in the U.S. For more information on this ARS funding proposal, contact NTF’s Kevin Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.