David Moore is a master’s student studying turfgrass science in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. Before coming to UConn, he spent years working on farms, in nurseries and running a syruping business. Here’s what he said in an interview.
Where did you study as an undergraduate?
I studied at the University of New Hampshire.
What was your major?
My major was environmental horticulture.
Why did you decide to go to graduate school?
I worked on farms and in nurseries for several years and I felt that it was time to continue my education.
Who is your advisor?
Karl Guillard is my advisor. Karl was trained in agronomy and he has brought techniques from corn research to turf science which was to the great benefit of the turf industry.
What is your field of research?
I am studying soil nutrient cycling in turfgrass systems. I’m involved in two projects. One project looks at different species of turfgrass under all different management practices (different mowing heights, different rates of nitrogen fertilizer and bagging or mulching clippings); we are trying to figure out how much total soil carbon accumulates over the years in each of these scenarios. Someday, there could be a carbon tax and carbon credit system and knowing the amount of carbon sequestration would be useful.
The other project aims to help people more accurately predict nitrogen fertilization requirements for turfgrass. Nitrogen is very transient in the soil so routine soil tests generally don’t measure it. Nitrogen fertilization recommendations for turf are a set rate regardless of your soil type. Organic matter in the soil breaks down during the growing season to release labile (plant-available) nitrogen and we are using a relatively new soil test to measure how much of this labile nitrogen will become available to the turfgrass during the growing season. This is called the nitrogen mineralization potential of the soil. For soils that have moderate to high organic matter contents, there could be enough decomposition and nutrient release during the year to offset or even negate nitrogen fertilizer requirements. Eventually, we’d like to quantify how much these requirements are offset so that folks who manage turfgrass professionally can more precisely calculate how much nitrogen the turf needs and not have to worry about compromising turfgrass performance if they aren’t applying the full rate of nitrogen. This could mitigate nitrogen leaching and water pollution and it could save people money, too.
Name one aspect of your work that you like.
I enjoy working outside. I also like knowing that the work I do could prevent excess nitrogen fertilization in turf systems and that we can modify our turf management practices to increase carbon sequestration. I am concerned for the long-term health of our environment and I hope that through outreach programs we can share what we’re doing with folks in the industry so it has a greater impact.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment so far?
I ran a successful birch syruping business, The Crooked Chimney, in Lee, New Hampshire for several years before graduate school.
What do you hope to do once you get your degree?
I would like to get back into the sugaring industry. I’d also like to make hay and grow oilseed crops, grains and maybe some specialty vegetables. My studies here have greatly increased my understanding of soil science.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I have great friends and a great family who are so encouraging. I’m very grateful to be here in Connecticut learning about plant and soil science.