An introduction to The Sports Turf Research Institute, by Ruth Mann:
I work as Head of Research at STRI. Within this role, I provide strategic direction for the growing research and development section within the STRI group, identifying new services and markets, researching innovative products, providing educational courses to the industry and developing relationships with key clients nationally and internationally.
STRI has seen significant expansion in recent years. In 2013, I was involved in opening the research facility and office in Brisbane. My main role in Australia is to manage and direct the research programmes undertaken there. Aspire Sports turf was formed in collaboration with Aspire Zone Foundation in Qatar in 2016 to develop a Centre of Excellence including a full outdoor turf research facility and commercial laboratory. My role in Qatar is again managing and directing research programmes.
Outside of STRI, I have been involved with the Amenity Forum for over 10 years. I was elected as Chair of Education and Skills in 2015 with the aim of significantly improving uptake of continual professional development within the amenity sector to satisfy the requirements of the Sustainable Use Directive. In 2016, I was appointed as a Director.
I am also Vice President for The International Turfgrass Society, a not-for-profit scientific organization established to encourage research and education in turfgrass science and organizing international conferences with the main aim to present turfgrass research. It has a world-wide remit with research scientists from throughout the world as members.
My greatest daily challenge is co-ordinating all the research on pests, weeds, diseases and associated disorders, including integrated management programmes (IPM), grass cultivar testing, product testing, such as plant protection products, fertilisers and wetting agents; turf maintenance machinery and application technology testing; surface performance and playability of all sports surfaces.
Added to this we disseminate accrued knowledge from these trials to turf managers and consultants. As part of this we have become an approved trainer for BASIS Amenity Horticulture courses. These are currently developing and expanding into further aspects of turfgrass management.
The greatest challenge we have is future proofing the industry. This requires much blue-sky research that may take many years to produce an appropriate solution. As part of this we supervise PhD students and I am currently involved with Francesca Baylis’ study looking at mycorrhiza and plant growth promoting bacteria in collaboration with Alan Gange at Royal Holloway.
Our expertise has expanded over those years. We now have three research centres in Bingley, Brisbane and Qatar. From these research centres and our consultancy offices in Melbourne and China, we deliver a wide range of consultancy, surface design and research services across an international client base of over 2000 governing bodies, tournament organisers, clubs, local authorities and educational facilities.
What turns a normal working day into a great day?
A few events can turn a normal day into a great one. It could be helping to solve a disease outbreak on a golf course that is causing a great deal of stress for the turf manager. Leaving work knowing you have helped someone solve a problem always puts a smile on my face.
Alternatively, getting to the end of a long running research project that has provided a new technology, product or technique that we know will help turf managers in the future.
Did you know…..?
STRI was established in 1929, so we are 90 years old this year!
What it means to be a member of The Amenity Forum:
Being a member of the Amenity Forum is important for us as we are part of a group of like-minded businesses all wanting to hold the industry up for scrutiny and ensure best practice in all that we do.