New iPhone app diagnoses turfgrass problems

What is the coolest thing about the iPhone? Its applications.

The phone can convert international currency, find a nearby five-star restaurant, help park your car and do much more.

Thanks to some University of Georgia experts it now can help turfgrass managers diagnose and remedy turf problems.

“The idea originated from making podcasts, recording presentations to upload on iTunes, and that made me think of using the technology in a new way,” said Patrick McCullough, a turf-weed scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “I had been familiar with iPhone applications, and it sparked the idea of having a downloadable textbook for turfgrass.”

Originally envisioned for weed identification and herbicide recommendations, McCullough expanded the Turfgrass Management application to include all aspects of turfgrass management.

Input from UGA Cooperative Extension turf specialist Clint Waltz, entomologist Will Hudson and plant pathologist Alfredo Martinez made a complete package. Information from a library of turfgrass textbooks, complete with recommendations, is now easily accessible in the field.

“It is designed to be user friendly,” McCullough said. “The idea is for people to use it in the field for fast access to information and recommendations.”

Turf managers, landscape professionals, homeowners and UGA Extension county agents now can essentially have a mobile textbook with pictures and information on grass species, diseases, insects and pest control. The team is currently working on a pesticide database that will allow turf managers to research uses and application rates for pesticides, herbicides and plant regulators.

“When textbooks are printed, they become out of date quickly, as new diseases or pests are identified,” McCullough said. “With this application, if something is new, we can add it right away. The technology will never be out of date.”

The weed section has over 160 species, searchable in a variety of ways.

“If you have a crab grass, the application will show you the various species, pictures of each, descriptions of each plant and herbicide recommendations,” McCullough said.

Martinez, who answers turf disease problems daily, said the interactive tool will help managers treat problems faster.

“They can make more educated selections and diagnose problems using this tool,” Martinez said. “It will have an impact on the environment, too, because they can be more judicious about the control they choose.”

Turf is big business in Georgia. The state has 520 golf courses covered in turfgrass and 1.2 million acres of home lawns. Sod farms cover 50,000 acres, with a farmgate value of $164 million annually.

Released in August, the application has been downloaded around the world from users in Australia, South Africa, England, Canada and all across the United States.

“UGA has a possibility to make an international impact with our research and extension using this application,” McCullough said.

The application costs 99 cents to download from iTunes. A yearly subscription to the database is $19.99. Revenues generated from the sale fund turfgrass research at UGA.

McCullough is currently working on an application for Blackberry.