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March 20, 2014 Volume 35, No. 24

Professor honored for decades of scholarship on turfgrass

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Brad Fresenburg poses with last year’s winner of the Dr. William Daniel Founders Award, Beth Guertal of Auburn University, at an association event in San Antonio. Photo courtesy of Brad Fresenburg.

Brad Fresenburg earned his advanced degrees at MU

Brad Fresenburg enjoys hunting, fishing and camping. He’s also interested in American Civil War history. But his biggest interest is turfgrass.

In January, Fresenburg received the Dr. William Daniel Founders Award from Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), an organization representing 2,600 men and women who manage sports fields worldwide. Its mission is to enhance members’ ability to manage turfgrasses.

The award recognizes members who have made significant contributions to the profession. Winners for 2013 were announced at the annual STMA Conference and Exhibition in San Antonio. 

Fresenburg was completely unaware of his winning when Beth Guertal, last year’s award winner, spoke about the winner before announcing him. “I had no clue they were talking about me,” said Fresenburg, who has been involved in STMA for about 20 years. 

Fresenburg’s interest in sports turf and plant sciences began at a young age. Though he grew up in St. Louis, he always admired rural life. He decided to study agriculture and agronomy at MU, receiving his bachelor’s in 1976, master’s in 1980, a master of business administration in management in 1990, and a doctorate in philosophy in agronomy in 2010.

While he was working on his master’s in business, he worked at the MU Turfgrass Research Center. He enjoyed researching turfgrass and started concentrating on sports turf in 1992.

Fresenburg defines good sports turf as a natural grass field. Many athletes prefer natural turf to synthetic because natural turf doesn’t heat up as much on hot days and is softer and more forgiving, which reduces injury risk. But some players like synthetic because of its consistent feel, and field crews love it because it requires minimal upkeep.

Fresenburg explains that specialists use different turfgrasses for different climate regions. Warmer and cooler regions use grass that grows better in those respective regions. According to the United States Gold Association website, each grass species has a specific temperature range, and the range differs based on what photosynthetic pathway each species uses. Cool season grasses use the C3 photosynthetic pathway and grow well in soil temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees. Warm season grasses use the C4 photosynthetic pathway and grow best in temperatures between 80 and 95 degrees. 

Some soccer fields use Bermuda grass. It’s a warm season grass that grows and recovers quickly. Also, it can be mowed as short as a half-inch, whereas most grass fields are mowed to one inch. 

The ideal sports field would be safe and suitable for players, no matter if it’s natural or synthetic grass, Fresenburg said. “That’s the goal we try to set, and that’s the goal we try to teach sports turf managers.”

In the fall semester, Fresenburg will co-advise the new Sports Turf Graduate Assistantship at a master’s level with Josh McPherson, director of sports turf management in Athletics. “Students who want to get an advanced degree in sports turf management can apply for this assistantship,” Fresenburg said.

— JeongAn Choi