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Syngenta Endows Fund for Turfgrass Program 

by Jennifer Huber

The turfgrass program at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has received welcome support from Syngenta Professional Products of Greensboro, North Carolina. The Syngenta UConn Turfgrass Pathology Fund was established with a $25,000 endowment in August. Syngenta Professional Products is a subsidiary of Syngenta, a leading global agribusiness headquartered in Switzerland that develops and markets sustainable agriculture products and technology.

The Syngenta UConn Turfgrass Pathology Fund supports education, extension and research activities at the Department of Plant Science and the UConn Turfgrass Disease Diagnostic Center. The diagnostic center provides service to commercial clients throughout the Northeast. It’s an essential resource for managers of athletic fields, high-maintenance commercial land and golf courses. Assistant Professor John Kaminski was recruited in 2005 to create the turfgrass pathology program and lead research into turfgrass diseases, fungicide resistance and disease management.

“[John Kaminski] is very energetic. He’s taken an active step to fill the need in the Northeast,” says Dave Ross, Technical Manager, Lawn and Garden at Syngenta Professional Products.

“When there are relatively new researchers in our field, we want to help them to be successful,” Ross adds. “We saw that he’s doing very good work, and we wanted to help his research program and the University.”

UConn is quickly becoming a leader in turfgrass education, research and development. Faculty and graduate students are applying discoveries made through research in the lab to develop innovative solutions and provide them to clients through the diagnostic center. Most significantly, cutting-edge research and development at UConn is leading to a reduction in the use of pesticides, says Kaminski.

“It really benefits everyone,” says Kaminski. “What we’re trying to do is marry the two programs, the research and the diagnostic services, to really benefit the end users.”

Kaminski notes that the Syngenta UConn Turfgrass Pathology Fund provides a needed foundation on which to build support in order to grow UConn’s program.

“The goal is to build up the endowment to a level that will continue to provide support to the turfgrass pathology program at UConn,” says Kaminski. “I’m looking at longevity. When I retire, the next person will hopefully have a nest egg to fund graduate and research assistantships.”

Kaminski also emphasizes that strong private support from individuals and industry leaders like Syngenta will enable UConn to raise the profile of the turfgrass program. “It’s really to set the stage to build the program to where we want it to be, and that’s a nationally recognized research and education program,” he says.


Standing atop a turfgrass plot at UConn, Assistant Professor John Kaminski (center) accepts a $25,000 check from Syngenta Professional Products for the Syngenta UConn Turfgrass Pathology Fund on October 18. From left: John K. Martin, president of the UConn Foundation, Kirklyn M. Kerr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mary Musgrave, head of the Department of Plant Science, Kaminski, and Michael Agnew, Renee Keese, Dave Ross, and Robert Goglia of Syngenta Professional Products.

Copyright 2006 by The University of Connecticut Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

www.foundation.uconn.edu
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Turfgrass Disease Diagnostic Center Now Open 

By Bud Gavitt

Golf course superintendents, sports and recreational field managers, and commercial lawn care operators can now submit turf samples showing signs of pest damage and physiological disorders for analysis at the Department of Plant Science’s Turfgrass Disease Diagnostic Center. Established last year by John Kaminski, assistant professor of pathology in turfgrass science in the Department of Plant Science, the center is housed in room 110 of the W.B. Young Building.

A substantial grant to purchase equipment and supplies, including microscopes, for the center was given by the New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation. This private foundation funds to research and advancement of the region’s turf industry.

The center is open daily year round but most of the diagnostic work is done during the turfgrass growing season. Kaminski makes every effort to diagnose the disorder and give recommendations on what to do to address the problem within 24 hours.

In most cases golf course superintendents and others are able to identify the problem but want it to be confirmed by Kaminski. Once the problem is identified, recommendations may include changing a cultural practice, such as increasing turf mowing height or using plant protectants to control a turf pest.

Sometimes Kaminski visits the site to see what’s going on with a difficult problem. He says problems may occur that aren’t related to disease but still may cause turf to decline. For example, there may be too much shade, too much water, or not enough nitrogen fertilizer in the soil.

Samples can be sent to: Turfgrass Disease Diagnostic Center, Department of Plant Science, UConn, 1376 Storrs Road, U-4067, Storrs, CT 06269-4067. Samples must be submitted Monday through Thursday in order to provide diagnostic services the following day. If you like, you can also contact Kaminski at (860) 486-0162 or email him at john.kaminski@uconn.edu. To cover costs, there is a fee of $50.00 for Connecticut samples and $100.00 for out-of-state samples.

Kaminski expects to have a Web site by the end of the year that will include updates on the department’s turfgrass programs and new and ongoing pest control problems.

“My goal,” Kaminski says, “is to assist turfgrass managers throughout the region with whatever agronomic problems they may have.” “An additional benefit of the Center is that learning about the problems in the field provides ideas for future turfgrass research projects.”

Homeowners can get answers to their turf and lawn care questions from the Home and Garden Education Center at (877)486-6271 or by email.
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Phoenix Environmental Care LLC Makes Donation to Turfgrass Research at the University of Connecticut 

Valdosta, GA – Phoenix Environmental Care LLC has made a donation to the turfgrass pathology research program headed by Dr. John Kaminski at the University of Connecticut.

“We have a board of advisors called ‘Friends of Phoenix’ which consist of several golf course superintendents,” says Owen Towne, Phoenix Environmental Care LLC President. “The donation is based on the recommendation of that board. We are happy to do this, because Dr. Kaminski’s work on anthracnose and other turf diseases is benefiting golf course superintendents far beyond the state of Connecticut.”

Towne says the contribution is a part of Phoenix Environmental Care’s ongoing commitment to giving back a portion of the company’s sales to organizations and universities that support the Green Industry. “We’ve done this with groups like the Wee One foundation and others, and we will continue our company policy of giving back to the Green Industry.”

“It’s great to have Phoenix supporting our efforts,” says Kaminski. “The money will be used to hire a summer technician to assist in all aspects of our turf pathology program. We continue to grow at a rapid pace, and our goal is to make a positive impact throughout New England. The funding they’ve provided will play a large role in accomplishing this.”

Dr. Kaminski was recently chosen to receive the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation Award of Excellence for 2005. A native of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Kaminski earned a B.S degree from Penn State University in 1998. He earned his M.S. and PhD at the University of Maryland where his work involved the investigation of the biology of Ophiosphaerella agrostis and epidemiology of bentgrass dead spot.

Phoenix Environmental Care specializes in turf, nursery, ornamental and aquatic products, marketing a variety of materials to meet the needs of the Green and Aquatic Industries through unique, quality formulations and industry support.
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UConn Professor Nabs Musser 

John Kaminski, Ph.D., a recent graduate from the University of Maryland in plant pathology, has been chosen to receive the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation Award of Excellence for 2005. The annual award is presented to an outstanding doctoral student of turfgrass science who has made significant and innovative contributions to turfgrass science research. This year’s award winner also received a $20,000 cash award.

A native of Upper Marlboro, Md., Kaminski earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in 1998 and earned his master’s and Ph.D at the University of Maryland, where his work involved the investigation of the biology of Ophiosphaerella agrostis and epidemiology of bentgrass dead spot.

Kaminski is currently an assistant professor of turfgrass pathology at the University of Connecticut. His appointment is 70 percent extension and 30 percent research and he serves as the director of the UConn Turfgrass Disease Diagnostic Center.

Since 2000, Kaminski has published 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers, progress/field day research reports, abstracts, extension publications and popular articles. His speaking activities included various guest lectures at the University of Maryland as well as invited speaking engagements at the 2001 International Turfgrass Research Conference and Rutgers Annual Turfgrass Management Symposium.

Kaminski began working in the turfgrass industry as an intern at Desert Mountain Properties in Scottsdale, Ariz. While attending Penn State, he also interned at Congressional Country Club and the Valentine Turfgrass Research Facility.

During his graduate studies at the University of Maryland, Kaminski worked under the direction of Dr. Peter Dernoeden. His involvement in the turfgrass science program included conducting basic and applied research, assisting in turfgrass disease diagnostics and guest lecturing in the areas of turfgrass science and plant pathology.

His initial work defined the geographic distribution of the pathogen and various aspects of the pathogen’s growth and reproduction. The final phase of his research involved a closer look at the environmental conditions favoring disease development. In addition to his applied research, he conducted studies to assess the genetic diversity of O. agrostis and also developed a molecular technique that allows for the rapid detection of the pathogen within infected plants.

“John has been the most remarkable graduate student that the U. of Maryland turfgrass program has ever experienced,” Peter Dernoeden, Ph.D. at the University of Maryland says. “He has a superior intellect, he is self-motivating and an intense researcher, and he has an outstanding work ethic. His accomplishments as a graduate student have been truly exemplary.”

Kaminski’s career goals are to:
Develop a productive and successful turfgrass pathology research program at the University of Connecticut;
Elucidate unknown biological and epidemiological aspects of important turfgrass pathogens and their respective diseases;
Develop improved chemical and cultural techniques for managing turfgrass diseases; and
Standardize and simplify the methods used to identify turfgrass diseases.

Named in memory of turfgrass scientist professor H. Burton Musser, the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation is dedicated to fostering Turfgrass Management as a learned profession.
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