GreenKeeper app: Turning research into practice

The free decision-support tool puts data on nutrient management, pest outbreaks, growing degree days and more at users’ fingertips.


Filed to: Technology

Golf course green
GreenKeeper is a web-based app for computers and mobile devices that provides golf course maintenance information — from course-specific reports to helpful crowdsourced data — to multiple users at the same facility. Photo by Peter Lewicki/Unsplash

Turfgrass research is constantly evolving, and our knowledge base is expanding quickly. It can be tough to absorb all of that information and even more difficult to put it into practice, as turfgrass managers are increasingly becoming data managers.

In response to this, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have developed a web-based tool called GreenKeeper to simplify the way managers handle data acquisition and analysis and implement the latest turf research.

GreenKeeper was originally designed to help track growing degree day (GDD) models for plant growth regulators (PGRs). Over the past 10 years, complex models for predicting PGR performance have been developed using temperature data. Although the models are useful, using them on-site has often proved challenging. As more models were developed, the task became even more laborious and confusing.

GreenKeeper incorporates 570 different PGR models. The website automatically selects the best PGR model based on factors such as grass species, mowing height, PGR active ingredient and application rate. Past weather data and forecast data are then automatically used to show the user how the PGRs are working at their facility. The 10-day weather forecast is also integrated into the models to help managers prepare for future applications.

During development of GreenKeeper, it became obvious that the app had to be able to track turf management products like pest control products, fertilizers and other specialty products. It was also a short leap to automate the turfgrass mixing math.

Since GreenKeeper launched in early 2016, about 6,100 users have been linked across 4,100 courses, which means that GreenKeeper now stores more than 100,000 different product applications.

In 2017, the Smith-Kerns dollar spot forecast model was added to GreenKeeper. The dollar spot forecast uses weather data — like the PGR GDD models — to predict the likelihood of a dollar spot outbreak. The Smith-Kerns model has been developed and promoted by Damon Smith, Ph.D.; Jim Kerns Ph.D.; and Paul Koch, Ph.D. They’ve shown that their model can reduce the number of fungicide applications needed to counteract this disease. GreenKeeper employs their model to show which areas are “at risk of” or “protected from” dollar spot.

Soil testing is also integrated into GreenKeeper. Interpretation of those results is based on university and MLSN (minimum level for sustainable nutrition) recommendations. Incorporating soil testing into the tool led to the addition of performance tracking in 2017, and the idea of more formally tracking daily clipping volume has expanded over the years.

Measuring the volume of clippings collected from putting greens or other areas being mowed is becoming more popular, as the measurements allow superintendents to adjust management tasks such as irrigation, nitrogen fertilizer application and PGR rates to strive for a consistent growth rate. Clipping volume can also be used to estimate fertilizer requirements and possibly help schedule topdressing applications. The Performance Tracker in GreenKeeper can be used to store and visualize data such as clipping volume, green speed, soil moisture, etc.

GreenKeeper will continue to evolve as management tools are needed to help turfgrass managers turn research into practice. The rapid implementation of sensors, GPS sprayers and other technologies can be overwhelming if the data are not consolidated and well organized.

Tools like the GreenKeeper app have the potential to help turfgrass managers quickly visualize data, make the best management decisions and store the data for future reference.

To try GreenKeeper, visit the GreenKeeper website and register for your free account. Note that GreenKeeper is a web-based app that can be accessed via any web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and does not need to be downloaded from an app store. Multiple users can be added to one course, and users can easily move from course to course. GreenKeeper can help you bring university turf research to your facility in 2019.

Bill Kreuser, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and Extension turfgrass specialist in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb.