Turf Research at UWA

Louise Barton (louise.barton@uwa.edu.au), Pieter Poot (pieter.poot@uwa.edu.au&
Tim Colmer (timothy.colmer@uwa.edu.au)
Turf Research at UWA

Our vision is to be the leading turf research group in Australia, and also recognised internationally


Turf managers and society are seeking more efficient systems for delivering consistent and high-quality turf surfaces that enhance, rather than impact on, the environment.  The UWA Turf Research Program works in collaboration with the Australian Turf Industry to provide the quantitative information required to develop best management practices for water and nutrient use in turf culture.  Turf is a major component of the urban landscape in Australian cities; metropolitan Perth contained 13,500 ha of grassed areas in 1990.  The general community, as well as the Turf Industry, will benefit from best management practices that maximise turf quality, while minimising environmental impacts such as water consumption and nutrient leaching.

The research program has been developed, and managed, in consultation with industry groups.  A ‘Turf Industries Research Steering Committee’ was established in 1995, and this brought together stakeholders in the WA Turf Industry, Government, and Research arenas (Table 1) to set well defined goals.  In 1997, the UWA Turf Research Facility was established at Shenton Park, approximately 8 km west of Perth’s CBD.  The facility includes: (i) an innovative variable-speed lateral boom irrigator, (ii) soil-water monitoring equipment, (iii) a weather station, (iv) a series of lysimeters, (v) mini-rhizotron access tubes and image capture equipment, (vi) thermal camera, (vii) chromometer colour sensor, (viii) turf maintenance equipment, and (v) access to analytical laboratories at the Field Station and on the UWA Crawley Campus. 
The ‘Turf Industries Research Steering Committee’ has, for almost 20 years, successfully initiated, developed, co-funded, and managed research and extension activities in the priority areas as determined in collaboration with the Industry (Table 2).  The close involvement of industry groups has enhanced our research capacity and facilitated communication (flow in both directions) between research providers and stakeholder groups.
The program has been very successful, with new and relevant information now available to the Industry (Table 2).  A web-site http://www.plants.uwa.edu.au/research/turf provides details on the UWA Turf Research Team, current membership of the Committee, information on past and present projects, lists publications arising from our research, gives a ‘Fact Sheet’ on Minimising Nitrogen Leaching, and has the most recent volume of our newsletter available to down-load.
In order to meet the future demands of our stakeholders, and to promote continued development of the turf research program at UWA, the ‘Turf Industries Research Steering Committee’ periodically undertakes a strategic planning process.  This document summaries our vision for turf research at the University of Western Australia.

Key Stakeholders

  • Australian Turf Industry – it produces, distributes, installs, maintains, and provides products and advice to the end users of turf.  The Industry includes many businesses andindustry associations and bodies (e.g. Horticulture Australia Ltd, Turf Producers Australia, Turf Growers Association of WA, Golf Course Superintendents Association of WA, Parks & Leisure Australia, Landscape Industries Association, Irrigation Australia Ltd, Sports Turf Association of Australia (WA), WA Bowling Association, etc.)
  • Businesses providing products and services to turf growers and managers (e.g. water, fertilisers, irrigation equipment, agri-chemicals, compost, soil amendments, consultant advice, etc.), and industry associations (e.g. Fertiliser Association, WA Compost Association, Irrigation Australia Ltd).
  • Businesses with potential synergies (e.g. use of by-products, such as waste- or recycled-waters, organic and inorganic substances suitable for use as a soil amendment).
  • Bulk end users (e.g. local government, golf courses, ovals, sports grounds, parks, other grassed public open spaces, racing & gaming industry, etc.) and their relevant associations (see above and WA Local Government Association (WALGA)).
  • Individual end users (e.g. Homeowners).
  • Government departments and agencies – influence over users (e.g. Departments of Agriculture/Natural Resource Management, Department of Water, Department of Sports & Recreation, Department of Parks & Wildlife, Department of Environmental Regulation, Department of Education).
  • Relevant research investors (e.g. Horticulture Australia Ltd., Australian Research Council, Industry and Government).
  • Suppliers (e.g. Water Corporation) and regulators (e.g. Department of Water) of water resources.
  • Research, research training and education providers (e.g. TAFE, Universities, CSIRO, professional associations, public and private sector providers, etc.).
Diversity of representation by stakeholder groups is an important strength of the ‘Turf Industries Research Steering Committee’.

 Statement of Purpose

To work in partnership with the Australian Turf Industry to develop science-based best management practices for turf culture, with knowledge transfer to industry, government and scientific audiences.  Contribute to the development of the Australian Turf Industry and a sustainable environment for the citizens of Australia.


  • To assess, and where appropriate initiate, and then conduct turf research projects to ensure that the results will be of maximum benefit to the stakeholders. 
  • To provide stakeholders with relevant information that will enable them to make informed decisions regarding establishment and maintenance of turf.
Committee members represent sectors within the range of stakeholders (and/or in some cases provide specific expertise).  Communication by committee members with their various sectors is essential to ensure that the decisions continue to address the needs of end users.
  • To select projects that have relevant and achievable goals, will be completed within budget and on time, and which produce and disseminate new knowledge.
  • Secure adequate and on-going funding in collaboration with stakeholders in order to address Australia’s turf research needs.
  • Effective communication with industry to facilitate practice changes for economic and/or environmental benefits.
  • Provision of research student training opportunities.
  • To raise the profile of the research group, and ultimately to be recognised by practitioners and scientists, nationally and internationally, for excellence in turf research.
Achievement of the objectives listed above will be the hallmark of a successful program.  These objectives contribute to ensuring good returns to investors/stakeholders, and in establishing and maintaining credibility with stakeholder groups.  The objectives deal with the need to secure adequate resources to ensure an on-going program of excellence in turf research, of value to the industry and other stakeholders.

Desired Outcomes

  • A vibrant, multi-disciplinary, collaborative turf research group recognised for excellence in research and collaboration with the Australian Turf Industry.
  • Deliver new knowledge on turf sciences and management to Industry and Scientific audiences in WA, Australia, and world-wide.
  • Improved communication and sharing of knowledge amongst stakeholder groups.
  • Increased awareness amongst stakeholders of: (i) environmental and social benefits of turf, and (ii) responsible use of turf, in urban environments.
  • Maintaining an acceptable quality of turf with the minimal input of resources, through a better understanding of processes in turf and soils.
  • Australian Turf Industry recognised as leaders in best management practices for water and nutrients in turf.
  • Science graduates with knowledge in turf and related sciences, with an appreciation of industry needs – a future resource for industry, government and/or research providers.
  • Satisfied and motivated research staff, academic staff, committee members, and contributing partners. 
These outcomes will assist the further development of turf as an important sector within the Australian Horticulture and Landscape Industries, and enhance the quality of knowledge available to stakeholder groups in Australia.  Flow-on benefits to end-users include improved quality of turf surfaces and the environment. The outcomes contribute to the economic and social well-being of Australians. The sharing of knowledge in public forums (seminars and publications), will contribute to society at the local, national and international scales.
Table 1.  Composition of the ‘Turf Industries Research Steering Committee’ as of September 2014. Several others have contributed to the committee during the period 1997-2013 (not listed).
Gausul AzamThe University of Western Australia
Kim BaileyTurf & Landscape Industries Association
Louise BartonThe University of Western Australia
Michelle BrentWA Local Government Association
Nick BellTurf Consultant
Tim ColmerThe University of Western Australia
Aaron ComptonDepartment of Water
Glenn CraigWA Bowling Green Association
Sam Flottmann  The University of Western Australia
Helen GigneyWater Corporation
Tony GuySports Turf Association (WA)
Ken JohnstonTurf Consultant
Tracy Martin     Irrigation Australia Ltd (WA Region)
Esther NgangLandscape Industries Association (WA)
Dave ParkerLawn Mowing Contractors Association
Pieter PootThe University of Western Australia
Eva RicciWA Turf Growers Association
Toby RiseboroughOrganic 2000
Terry SellickWA Turf Growers Association
Warren Stephens (Chair)Local Government
Brian VidovichWA Turf Growers Association
Darren WilsonWA Golf Course Superintendents Association
Paul Wright      Local Government
Table 2. Projects managed by the ‘UWA Turf Industries Research Steering Committee’ since the commencement of the program in 1997. In addition to the funding support provided by partners listed, in-kind support from numerous groups has been highly appreciated (acknowledged in project-specific publications).
Title of ProjectDatesFunding PartnersOutputs**
Reducing water use by turf grasses in a Mediterranean environment: evaluation of diverse species1997 to 2001

HAL (HRDC Project TU96002)

Water Corporation, Waters & Rivers, WA TGA, Organic 2000

MicroControl Engineering,
PhD thesis by Digby Short
10 publications in industry journals
Presentations at national and state conferences
Several field days and site visits
Presentations to WA industry
TV, radio, newspaper interviews
Final report to HAL
1 paper in a scientific journal
Fly ash amendments to improve water and nutrient use in turf systems on sandy soils1999 to 2002
Western Power, Ash Development Association of AustraliaPhD thesis by Shahab Pathan

4 publications in scientific journals
3 publications in industry journals
Presentations at international conferences and national meetings
Presentation to WA industry
Several site tours
Development of nutrient management systems for the WA turf industry.2001 to 2004
HAL (Project TU00007)

Water Corporation, Waters & Rivers, WATGA, Organic 2000
Scotts Australia, CSBP/Cresco,
MicroControl Engineering, WA GCSA, City of Stirling, City of Nedlands
5 publications in industry journals

Annual field days
TV, radio, newspaper interviews
Presentations at national meetings
Presentations to WA industry
Final report to HAL
1 invited review in a scientific journal
Invited to Int. Agronomy Conference
2 papers in scientific journals
Evaluation of a soil moisture sensor control system for improved water use efficiency in turf2002Holman IndustriesFinal report to Holman Industries
Presentations to WA industry
Evaluation of a soil moisture sensor to reduce water use and nutrient leaching in turf2003HAL (Project TU 02006)
Holman Industries
TV and newspaper articles
Presentation to WA industry
Final report to HAL
1 paper in a scientific journal
Kikuyu Research Project2005 to 2008HAL (Project TU4001)
Baileys Fertilisers, CSBP Ltd, Lawn Doctor, Micro Control Engineering, Organic 2000, PLA (representing a consortium of Local Government & Government Authorities), TGGA, WATGA, TurfMaster, WAGCSA, Water Corporation
HAL (Project TU4001)
Baileys Fertilisers, CSBP Ltd, Lawn Doctor, Micro Control Engineering, Organic 2000, PLA (representing a consortium of Local Government & Government Authorities), TGGA, WATGA, TurfMaster, WAGCSA, Water Corporation
Adaptation and management of buffalograss cultivars for water conservation2006 to 2008UWA component, HAL Project TU04008 (with QDPI&F)
WATGA, WA Palmetto Group
WA Sir Walter Group, Brisbane CC, Buchanan Turf, H&T Whiting, Lend Lease, Matilda Trading, Richmond Turf, Sod Solutions, Turf Force, TurfCo
Turf project launch  + 2 field days
Presentations to National TPA
Presentations to WA Turf Industry Conference and Bus Tour
2 industry journal publications
Final report to HAL
Irrigation of halophytic turfgrasses with saline water2006 to 2009ARC Linkage
Shire of Wagin
PhD thesis by Ghazi Abu Rumman      
Local newspaper articles                
Updates in Rural Towns Newsletter
Field visit by SPA Bus Tour
Presentations to WA industry    
1 industry journal publication
3 international conference presentations
1 chapter in conference proceedings
Identifying and managing water repellency in turfgrass grown in sandy soils2007 to 2010HAL (Project TU07006)
Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority, Consortium of Local Governments, Dept. of Water, Dept. Of Education & Training, Lawn Doctor, Organic 2000, TGAWA, TGGA, WAGCSA
6 presentations to WA industry
2 Industry workshops
3 industry journal publications
Newspaper articles
Annual field day
Quarterly UWA Turf Newsletter
Final report to HAL
2 papers in scientific journals
Evaluation of soft leaf buffalo cultivars: renovation, mowing heights, and water use2009 to 2012HAL (Project TU09005), Future Turf, Sir Walter WA Growers Group, TGAWA, Water Corporation, Western Australia Group Pty Ltd3 presentations to WA industry
4 industry journal publications
Annual field day
Newspaper articles
Quarterly UWA Turf Newsletter
Final Report to HAL
Effectively Utilising Water Allocations for Managing Turfgrass in Open Spaces2011 to 2015HAL (Project TU11012) in partnership with WA Local Government and the WA Turf Industry2 industry journal publications
Field days
Newspaper articles
Quarterly UWA Turf Newsletter
Application of soil amendments to maintain turf quality on sandy soils under reduced irrigation2013 to 2016HAL (Project TU13000) in partnership with the Water Corporation, a consortium of WA local governments,amendment product suppliers, WA Turf Growers Association, Sports Turf Association (WA), WA Land AuthorityField day
1 industry journal publication
UWA Turf Seminar Days for Industry2000
Water Corporation
Self-funding (Registration fees)
Abstract booklets & short papers
New information
Interstate and International speakers
Industry networking
2009 onwards organised by WATGA & TGAA(WA)
 *Two fourth-year honours projects were also completed, but are not listed.
**Final reports for HAL projects are available via www.horticulture.com.au/ 
Practical outputs for industry include: 1. Data on turf water use against which turf managers can benchmark their irrigation scheduling.  2. Recommendations on rates of fly ash to use as a soil amendment, and understanding of the beneficial effects and environmental considerations.  3. Data on nutrient budgets for several fertiliser types and rates against which industry can benchmark fertiliser management to optimise turf quality, and minimise environmental impacts.  4. Information on potential water savings from use of soil-water sensor controlled irrigation scheduling.  5. Data on the benefits of soil wetting agents for water management and turf quality.  6. Data on the influence of mowing heights for turf water use.  7. Demonstration of responses of various soft-leaf buffalo genotypes to declining irrigation, alkaline soil, and contrasting renovation techniques.  8. The committee provides a ‘reference group’, our web site provides an easily accessible source of information for stakeholders, and the UWA research group provides a point of contact for the development of national and international collaborations and exchange of information.  9. Research results have been incorporated into various guidelines (e.g. Water Corporation brochures for homeowners, WA Turf Growers Association Code of Practice) and manuals (e.g. TurfSustain).  10. Our quarterly newsletter, web-site, field days, seminars and publications, are designed to ensure good communication with stakeholders and other groups.
List of Industry Publications:
Poot P., G. Azam, L. Barton, and T. Colmer. 2014. Water savers. Australian Turfgrass Management Journal 16.3 (May-June), 74-76.
Barton L., S. Flottmann, and T. Colmer. 2012. Optimising water allocation usage.  Australian Turfgrass Management Journal 14.5 (Sep-Oct), 52?53.
Colmer T. and L. Barton 2012. Mower height influence on water use. Australian Turfgrass Management Journal 14.1 (Jan?Feb), 46?47.
Barton L. and T. Colmer. 2011. Managing soil water repellency in turfgrass on sands. Australian Turfgrass Management Journal 13.3 (May?Jun), 72?75.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck, and T. Colmer. 2011. Greater vigour in mature turf increases water use.  Turfguide 2011, 50?52.
Barton L., G. Wan, and T. Colmer. 2011. Nitrogen ? too much of a good thing can lead to leaching.  Turfguide 2011, 53?55.
Colmer T., S. Burgess, and L. Barton. 2011. New trials deliver timely results.  Turfguide 2011, 43?44.
Colmer T, and M. Pridham. 2011. Turfing out a salty problem.  Turfguide 2011, 48?49.
Colmer T, T. Higgott, and L. Barton. 2011. Response of soft-buffalo to renovation. Australian Turfgrass Management 13.1 (Jan?Feb), 48?49.
Colmer T, S. Burgess, and L. Barton. 2010. UWA embarks on new turf trials. Australian Turfgrass Management 12.2 (Mar?Apr), 38?39.
Abu Rumman G., Barrett-Lennard E., and Colmer T.D. 2009. Halophytic turfgrasses and their potential use on salt-affected areas. Australian Turfgrass Management 11.1, 46-47.
Barton, L., and T. D. Colmer. 2009.  Managing water repellency in turfgrass grown in sandy soils.  Australian Turfgrass Management Volume 11.6 (Nov–Dec), 40–42.
Barton L., G. Wan, and T Colmer. 2008. Managing water repellency in turfgrass grown in sandy soils. Australian Turfgrass Management Volume 10.3 (May–June), pp 44–46.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck, and T. Colmer. 2007. Does ‘splitting’ nitrogen fertiliser applications decrease leaching?  Australian Turfgrass Management Volume 9.6 (November–December), pp 40–43.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck and T. Colmer. 2007. Nitrogen fertiliser management influences turfgrass water use.  Turfcraft, Issue 115 (July–August), pp 36–38.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck, and T Colmer. 2006. Nitrogen fertiliser management and its influence on turfgrass water use.  Australian Turfgrass Management, Volume 8.5 (October–November), pp 36–38.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck, and T. Colmer. 2005. Managing Kikuyu under Australian conditions.  Australian Turfgrass Management, Volume 7.2 (April–May), pp 36–37.
Barton L., G. Wan, and T Colmer. 2004. Turfgrass production on sandy soils – Nitrogen leaching. Australian Turfgrass Management Volume 6.5 (October-November), pp 36–40.
Barton L., G Wan & T Colmer. 2004. Turfgrass production on sandy soils – Irrigation and fertiliser management. Australian Turfgrass Management Volume 6.2 (April-May),pp 6–7.
Barton L., G Wan & T Colmer. 2003. Maximising turf quality, minimising nutrient leaching. Australian Turfgrass Management Volume 5.1 (February-March), pp 26–30.
Barton L., D. Short, S. Pathan, G. Wan, and T. Colmer. 2002. Optimising water and nutrient management for turf grown on sandy soils. Golf & Sports Turf Australia, Volume 10 (5), pp 28–36.
Barton L., and T Colmer. 2001. Maximising turf quality, minimising nutrient leaching. Australian Turfgrass Management Volume 3.4 (August-September), pp 36–37.
List of Scientific Journal Publications:
Barton L., and T. D. Colmer. 2011. Ameliorating water repellency under turfgrass of contrasting soil organic matter content: Effect of wetting agent formulation and application frequency. Agricultural Water Management 99:1?7.
Barton L., and T. D. Colmer. 2011. Granular wetting agents ameliorate water repellency in turfgrass of contrasting soil organic matter content. Plant and Soil 358: 411–424.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck, and T. D. Colmer. 2009. Does N fertiliser regime influence N leaching and quality of different-aged turfgrass (Pennisetum clansestium)? Plant and Soil 316: 81–96.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck, and T. D. Colmer. 2009. Nitrogen increases evapotranspiration and growth of a warm-season turfgrass. Agronomy Journal 101: 17–24.
Barton L., G. Wan, R. Buck, and T. D. Colmer. 2009. Cultural controls of thatch and mat and effects on turfgrass growth and quality. Agronomy Journal 101: 67–74.
Pathan S.M., L. Barton, and T. D. Colmer. 2007. Evaluation of a soil moisture sensor to reduce water and nutrient leaching in turfgrass (Cynodon dactylon cv. Wintergreen). Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47: 215–222.
Short D. C., and T. D. Colmer. 2007. Development and use of a variable-speed lateral boom irrigation system to define water requirements of 11 turfgrass genotypes under field conditions. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47: 86–95.
Barton L., G. G. Y. Wan, and T. D. Colmer. 2006a. Turfgrass (Cynodon dactylon L.) sod production on sandy soils: I. Effects of irrigation and fertiliser regimes on growth and quality. Plant & Soil 284: 129–145.
Barton L., G. G. Y. Wan, and T. D. Colmer 2006b. Turfgrass (Cynodon dactylon L.) sod production on sandy soils: II. Effects of irrigation and fertiliser regimes on N leaching Plant & Soil 284: 147–164.
Barton L., and T. D. Colmer 2006. Irrigation and fertiliser strategies for minimising nitrogen leaching from turfgrass. Agricultural Water Management 80: 160–175.
Pathan S.M., L. A. G. Aylmore, and T. D. Colmer. 2003. Properties of several fly ash materials in relation to use as a soil amendments. Journal of Environmental Quality 32: 687–693.
Pathan S.M., L. A. G. Aylmore, and T. D. Colmer. 2003. Soil properties and turf growth on a sandy soil amended with fly ash. Plant and Soil 256: 103–114.
Pathan S.M., L. A. G. Aylmore, and T. D. Colmer. 2002. Reducing leaching of nitrate, ammonium, and phosphorus in a sandy soil by fly ash amendment. Australian Journal of Soil Research 40: 1201–1211.
Pathan S.M., L. A. G. Aylmore, and T. D. Colmer. 2001. Fly ash amendment of sandy soils ti improve water and nutrient use efficiency in turf culture. International Turfgrass Society Research Journal 9: 33–39.
For further information please see: http://www.plants.uwa.edu.au/research/turf
HAL projects have a final report which can be accessed via HAL. See: http://www.horticulture.com.au/
If you would like a pdf of a journal paper publication, please contact: Louise Barton (louise.barton@uwa.edu.au), Pieter Poot (pieter.poot@uwa.edu.au) or
Tim Colmer (timothy.colmer@uwa.edu.au)