Preparations for a successful trialing year are well underway at Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA). With the completion of the first TWCA Cooperators call in and the final check off for TWCA cameras both finalized in February the pressure is on to get equipment shipped. As the first program to require objective data TWCA is the industry leader in standardizing research equipment and practices. TWCA calibrates and inspects a fleet of standardized equipment to ensure accurate trialing results meaningfully compared across locations. TWCA Standardization efforts also include the cooperator calls happening three times per year to discuss management issues and update the research team on progress and challenges. Other supplements include standard TWCA Talking points specifically for cooperator trials, FAQ handouts addressing specific cooperator questions from prior trials, and Growing Great Grass, the TWCA cooperator manual. TWCA also issues a set of standard research lights; this half dozen lights ensure cooperators have access to 1.5 full arrays of fresh bulbs with the same anticipated lighting profile. The point of all this standardization is simply to remove confounding factors from any trialing results, giving the clearest view of drought tolerance in turf.
At the end of data collection TWCA enters the Qualification phase, where the Research Review Committee (RRC) evaluates the data and makes the final qualification recommendations.
Cost of Saving
The current trial, a tall fescue trial established in 2020 is in its second year of data collection. This trial did struggle with establishment issues in the first year of the trial with forty percent (40%) of cooperators delaying data collection. One (1) location lost their trial stand due to disease pressures, primarily pythium. TWCA’s unique system of recognizing cooperator integrity incentivizes cooperators exercising their best judgement. The structure uses a half (½) rate strategy for trial years without data collection and a performance bonus paying cooperators an additional half (½) rate at trials conclusion for successful collection of three (3) years data. This makes the total cost for a single trial location nearly eighteen thousand dollars for data collection alone. TWCA cooperator payment rates are approved by the TWCA Board of Directors and the TWCA RRC and are structured to offset the real cost of trial operation.
Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to water conservation and committed to preserving the environmental benefit of turfgrass in the managed environment. TWCA Qualifies drought tolerant turf cultivars through multi-year multi-site trialing. TWCA relies on third party peer review of objective data to make final qualifications of drought tolerant materials. To learn more about topics in this article please visit tgwca.org.
Jack Karlin is the Program Administrator for TWCA. His interest is in using policy and the built environment to create livable and sustainable communities.