Students in a West Virginia University agronomy class are combining hands-on learning with campus improvement in a project to improve the turf in front of the Student Recreation Center.

Undergraduates enrolled in Agronomy 315,Turfgrass Management,offered by the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, prepared a section of the area outside the Rec Center for new turf.

Providing optimum growing conditions for plants is critical to establishment and maintenance of high-quality turf,said Rakesh Chandran, an associate professor of agronomy in the Davis College and WVU Extension specialist.

To ensure optimum conditions for establishing and growing turf, Chandrans students conducted a literature review, studied resources used in the turf industry, and concentrated on the theory and practical aspects of their assignment. They learned how to use and calibrate a variety of sprayers and applicators used to apply seed, fertilizer and herbicides.

Students helped with application of a nonselective herbicide to kill the sod and cleanup of the debris left behind, removing rocks and grading the site. They helped spread starter fertilizer and compost and incorporated them into the soil. Composted poultry litter was one of the soil supplements the students used at the site.

Research at the University has shown that composted poultry litter incorporation helped establishment of turf in disturbed soils significantly,Chandran said.

Composting poultry litter also provides a disposal alternative for the material.

They will also apply the necessary pre-emergence herbicides, apply mulch and set up a temporary irrigation system for short-term use,Chandran added.

J.B. Kelly, a senior from Mannington, W.Va. majoring in plant and soil sciences, has found the hands-on experience valuable and challenging.

It was a lot more difficult than wed expected,he said, noting the high volume of inorganic matter at the site.Weve had to supplement with a lot of topsoil and other organic matter.

Kelly has enjoyed applying classroom theory to the practical project.

When we go over to the Rec Center, we can see how the site is shaping up,he said.And its always great to get outdoors.

After graduating in the spring of 2006, Kelly hopes to pursue a masters degree in entomology at the Davis College. Hes currently a student worker in the entomology program, helping research associate John Strazanac with an environmental assessment of the emerald ash borer. He has also worked on the programs insect specimen collection.

The students had significant support from a variety of sources.

Facilities Management employees Robert Clemmer from the Agronomy Farm and other employees from the Horticulture and Animal Sciences Farms helped with this project. Jeff Berryman, associate director of the award-winning Rec Center, coordinated the project with Chandran, encouraging the students to use this location for their project. Borderline donated compost, and PBI Gordon and OM Scotts provided additional materials required for the project.

Chandran is pleased with the outcome of the project.

It provided a hands-on experience to students to further their classroom experience and obtain training that may be useful in their career,he said.