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The following offers an Executive Summary of research conducted with members of the Turfgrass Industry in British Columbia. The summary draws on the findings from a mail survey of members of the Western Canada Turfgrass Association (WCTA) and other groups involved in the industry. Key findings from qualitative research conducted with WCTA members are also included where they clarify the survey results.

If you wish to have a full 100+ page copy of the British Columbia Turfgrass Industry Profile, please contact the WCTA office.

Industry profile
- The so-called turfgrass industry, is very diverse, comprising several different types of business and as well as the public sector.

- The common denominator is the commodity - turfgrass - but its uses and the ways in which added value are generated vary considerably.

Industry size
- Survey respondents report a total budget for turfgrass operations of $560 million. From this, it can be estimated that the total industry budget would be between $1.65 and $1.90 billion.

- Survey respondents reported a total payroll for turfgrass operations of $114 million. From this, it can be estimated that the total industry payroll would be between $340 and $385 million.

- Survey respondents report managing 99,000 acres of turfgrass in BC. From this, it can be) estimated that between 310,000 and 355,000 acres are being managed across the province.

- The public sector (Parks and School Boards) appear to account for the largest single portion of both the acreage and expenditures.

- Respondents reported a total of 4 3/4 million rounds of golf played in the past year. From this, it can be estimated that the total number of rounds played in BC would be between 11 and 13 million.

- Of these, 25% are estimated to come from tourists or guests.

- Survey respondents report 3,500 employees involved in turfgrass operations. From this, it can be estimated that the industry employs between 10,000 and 11,000 people.

- Of these, 41% are full time and 44% are part time permanent positions. Only 15% of employment is seasonal part time. 85% are permanent positions and 40% are full time permanent positions.

- One third of respondents (56% of golf courses) identify a Certificate or Diploma in turfgrass management to be typical entry level qualifications for a supervisory role within the industry.

Future trends
- Fifty eight per cent of respondents believe that the industry will grow in dollar value over the next five years. Twenty nine per cent believe that it will remain stable.

- Qualitatively, to the extent that turfgrass is a basis for recreation, it is generally felt that the recreation industry is strong and relatively recession-proof.

- Focus group participants felt that demand for and usage of facilities - both parks and golf courses - is increasing.

- From the qualitative research, participants felt that the turfgrass industry also has a positive impact on society as a whole, by:

  • Providing facilities for recreation and fitness
  • Maintaining green space, especially in and around urban areas
  • Providing habitat for wildlife.

- Survey respondents offered fairly neutral responses to questions regarding management issues related to the turfgrass industry.

- This supports an impression from the focus groups with WCTA members that they are too involved with day-to-day operations issues to concern themselves greatly with strategic considerations.

- In fact, in the qualitative research, respondents tended to define the Association as the industry, interchangeably. - Respondents were most likely to identify "people" issues as particular strengths of the industry. Most agreed that:

  • People in the turfgrass industry are much better qualified than they used to be. (93%)
  • A key strength of the turfgrass industry is the cooperation between its members. (84%)
  • Turfgrass professionals do not command the respect they deserve. (75%)
- Turfgrass managers are experiencing pressure on their budgets Parks and School Board respondents, in particular, agreed that:
  • I am constantly being asked to do more with less.

  • Overall, respondents were neutral (3-26) as to whether:
    • Turfgrass research in BC is second to none (75% agree or disagree somewhat)
    • The greatest challenge to my operations is the environmental movement (73%)
    • The greatest challenge to my operations is increasing government regulations (73%)

    - In the focus groups, managers felt that better education of user groups, such as sports associations, greens committees and, even individual players would make their day-to-day jobs much easier.

    - Respondents reported considerable diversity when it comes to stewardship, especially with regard to stewardship practices and policy.

    - Seven per cent of all respondents and 17% of Parks and School Board respondents operate under a "no pesticides" policy.

    - Eighty eight per cent have some restrictions on pesticide application.

    - Yellowjackets (47%) and Leatherjackets (42%) are reported to be the most common insect pests.

    - Dandelions (78%) and Clover (77%) present the greatest challenges when it comes to weeds, followed by Annual Bluegrass (32%).

    - Fusarium patch (50%) is the most commonly reported diseases. Others refer to pink snow mould (48%).

    - Respondents use a wide variety of pest control practices. Only regular monitoring is universally (83%) used to decide when to take action on pest problems.

    - Soil aeration is the only method used universally (88%) to manage pests. Other frequently used methods are:

    • Adjust timing of irrigation/watering (70%)
    • Improve drainage (69%)
    • Dethatching (66%)
    • Promote good air circulation (63%)
    • Use pesticides (63%)

    - By exception, 37% of turfgrass managers do not report regularly using pesticides.

    - Eighty four per cent of respondents have at least one Licensed Pesticide Applicator.

    - More than half the respondents did not answer the question about spill containment.

    - Pesticide application and sprayer calibration practices, as well as soil and tissue testing also varied considerably.

    - Almost 90% of respondents use IPM at least some of the time.

    - Respondents reported approximately 31,000 acres under irrigation. From this, it can be estimated that as much as 95,000 to 110,000 acres of turfgrass are being irrigated across the province.

    - Ninety per cent of respondents use an underground system.

    - A variety of different controls is used.

    - Among respondents answering the question, most systems are managed by timers with no rain switches or moisture sensors (28%) or manually (23%).

    - Frequency of visual checks for irrigation systems varies considerably.

    - Eighty three per cent modify the volume of water according to weather conditions.


    • A wide variety of wildlife is to be found on turfgrass operations.
    • Golf courses, in particular, are likely to report the presence of wildlife:
    • Mice (84%)
    • Ducks (81%)
    • Nesting birds (78%)
    • Deer (73%)
    • Canada Geese (61%)
    • Fish (61%)
    • Raccoons (56%)
    - Some wildlife present problems to turfgrass operations:
    • Canada Geese (34%)
    • Moles (29%)
    • Mice (21%)

    - Most respondents (52%) take care to pick up garbage daily, to discourage wildlife pests.

    - Thirty per cent use poison to manage rodents. It is not specified whereabouts on the operations, the poison is used.

    • Managers use a variety of means to protect wildlife habitat:
    • Preserve existing wildlife habitat areas (54%)
    • Retain rough undeveloped areas (50%)
    • Protect streams from contamination (48%)

    - Thirteen per cent of respondents are members of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System. Eleven per cent are members of Ducks Unlimited.

    - In the focus groups, it was reported that the greater challenges around stewardship seem to be communications issues, to ensure that the key target audiences maintain a positive attitude towards what the managers are doing.

    Community Relations
    - Survey respondents generally believe that the image of the industry with the general public is neutral.

    - Over half the respondents regularly post notices regarding upcoming spraying etc.

    - Twenty four per cent publish newsletters and 23% place articles in the media.

    - In general, the WCTA appears to be very positively perceived in the industry, especially by its members.

    - From the qualitative research, it is seen to provide a forum for research and information, and, importantly, for networking with other members.

    - Seventy two per cent of respondents read some type of research material once a month or more often (30% once a week).

    • Most popular topics appear to be:
    • Soil management (71%)
    • Equipment innovations (69%)
    • Diseases and their treatment (66%)
    • Irrigation (61%)

    - The Turf Line News is far and away the predominant source of research information, read by 84% of all respondents (91% of Golf Courses).

    - Forty per cent of WCTA non-members read the Turf Line News.

    - A similar proportion of non-members (35%) actually believe that they are members of the Association.

    - Seventy four per cent of all respondents read the Turf Line News as soon as it comes out.

    - WCTA Conferences are the second most popular source of research information (63%).

    WCTA Membership
    - Respondents are generally very positive about all aspects of WCTA membership, especially:

    • Annual conference (46% rated excellent. Rated excellent or good by 80%)
    • Turf Line News (85% excellent or good;)
    • Membership value for money (76% excellent or good;)
    • Disease and Pest Guide (73% excellent or good;)

    - Sixty nine per cent agree that - WCTA is the best value for money of any similar membership.

    - Sixty nine per cent also agree that - I like the way that WCTA makes members feel part of a close-knit family.

    - Sixty seven per cent feel that WCTA should develop its own turf management guide.

    - Sixty five per cent agree that WCTA should establish a professional designation for the industry.

    - Some members feel that the Association is too slanted towards:

    • the golf industry (41% agree)
    • the Lower Mainland (32% agree)

    - In general, respondents would like to see WCTA take a more pro-active role in public and media relations:

    • 75% agree that - WCTA should be an advocate with government on behalf of the industry
    • 66% agree that - WCTA should allocate resources to positive public relations for the industry.
    • 62% agree that - Public education should be a priority for WCTA.

    - The majority (65%) of members feel that $100 per year for fees represents fair value for money. - Some supplier interviewees feel that they are being asked to bear a disproportionate share of the costs of running WCTA, through charges for advertising and participation in WCTA events.

    - Twenty seven per cent of respondents would be very likely and 20% would be somewhat likely to use a WCTA website.

    The WCTA Board of Directors would like to thank the Turf Profile Steering Committee who spent many hours in committee meetings and in private time reviewing draft after draft to make the best production possible.

    The committee members and the areas of the turfgrass industry they represented are:
    * Leslie MacDonald, David Woodske and Al Oliver (BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food),
    * Joe Veller (golf courses),
    * Bob Paterson (parks and schools),
    * Mary Lou Wilmott (industry),
    * Jerry Anderson (sod producers)
    * Bob Wick and Viola Freer (WCTA).

    And a special thanks to Paul Guiton of GroundWorks Strategic Marketing Solutions for his leadership, expertise and professional approach to this valuable WCTA project.

    The total price for the project, the production and distribution of the final document of the British Columbia Turfgrass Industry Profile was $40,000. $15,000 of this amount was granted by the British Columbia Investment Agriculture Foundation. We thank Foundation for their partnership in the turfgrass industry profile.

    Turf Line News June/July 1999

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