Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with new North Carolina State University turfgrass pathologist Dr. Jim Kerns, who recently left the University of Wisconsin to return to his alma mater. Dr. Kerns was kind enough to answer a few of our questions and bring us up to date with what is happening at North Carolina State.
Question: Dr. Kerns, it’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 10 years since you spent a week with us as a Green Section intern. How does it feel to be returning to North Carolina State as a faculty member?
Answer: It feels great! Although my job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was fantastic, I am very excited to work with turfgrass managers in the Southeast again. Moreover, a good portion of my immediate family lives in North Carolina and my wife was born here. With the recent birth of our son, it sure is nice being closer to our parents. Finally, there is no greater honor in my mind to take the wheels of my former advisor’s program at my alma mater. My goal will be service and hopefully I will make everyone proud, especially Dr. Lane Tredway.
Question: Where do you see your research focus as you plan for the 2013 growing season?
Answer: There are many areas that need attention in the Southeast. For example, very little is known about the biology and management of diseases of ultradwarf bermudagrasses. I plan on dedicating a fair bit of time to that subject. I also want to continue my previous work on cool-season diseases such as dollar spot and Pythium regionalUpdateContent rot. Finally, I will also jump in headfirst into nematode biology and management.
Question: We have noticed a significant increase in the development of plant defense activators and their addition to fungicides. Do you see this trend increasing? Has this made it more or less difficult for superintendents to choose products for disease control?
Answer: I think we will continue to see plant defense activators develop in the marketplace, but I doubt they will ever dominate the market. I think the increase in plant defense activators has made selecting a fungicide a bit more confusing, but there are great materials out there to help superintendents select a product. Moreover, I am always happy to discuss these products. The bottom line is, do your research before selecting any new product.
Question: The North Carolina State Turf Diagnostics lab has long been a valuable resource for diagnosis of diseases on putting greens. Given the shift toward more warm-season putting greens in the region, is the lab set up to handle diagnosis on both cool- and warm-season species? Can you provide a link for more information on submitting samples?
Answer: The Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab is well-versed in both cool- and warm-season grass disease identification. Please use this valuable resource as much as possible. Proper diagnosis is the first and most important step in selecting a fungicide and consequently managing a disease. A visit to our website, NC State Turf Pathology, can help a great deal in this effort.
Please join us in welcoming Dr. Kerns back to the Southeast Region. Dr. Kerns will be a speaker at our March 26, 2013 USGA Regional Meeting in Charlotte, N.C. More details about this meeting will be coming shortly.