ROBO -GOLF: Robotic mowers for better turf quality, reduced fertiliser cost and less use of fossil energy on golf course fairways and semi-roughs

Summary

This project consists of three work-packages (WP):

WP1: Impact of robotic vs. manual mowers on turf quality of commonly used grasses on Nordic golf course fairways and semi-roughs. Two field trials, one with subplots (10 m x 10 m) of Festuca rubra, Poa pratensis and Agrostis capillaris at fairway mowing height (15-20 mm) and the other with subplots of Lolium perenne, Festuca rubra and Poa pratensis at semi-rough mowing height (35-40 mm) were seeded at NIBIO Landvik in May 2020. Once grow-in was completed, on 11 August three robotic mowers were installed on main plots in each trial. Turfgrass quality, chlorophyll content, diseases and broadleaved weeds were then assessed monthly in robotic-mown plots and in plots mown manually with a triplex reel mower (fairway) or rotary mower (semi-rough). Preliminary observations in the fairway trial in autumn 2020 showed significantly less Microdochium nivale and a tendency (P=0.07) for higher turf quality with robotic mowing in the fairway trial, but no advantage of robotic mowers in the semi-rough trial. The trials will continue in 2021 and 2022.

WP2: Impact of return of clippings using robotic vs. manual mowers on fertiliser requirements: This WP was established in the same trial area as used for WP1, in a section seeded with a fairway mixture. Fertilisation is scheduled for 2021 and 2022.

WP3: Demonstration trials with robotic mowers on golf courses: Demos were established at the golf courses Bærheim (N), Grenå (DK), Jönköping (S), Ikaalisten (FIN) and Ness (ISL) in May-June 2020. Husqvarna sponsored each course with two robotic mowers, one for a designated fairway and one for a designated semi-rough. Neighbouring fairways/semi-roughs of similar size/shape/soil type and grass composition serve as controls. Parameters recorded by the course managers are turfgrass quality, petrol/electricity consumption and labour use.

Results from 2020 showed few significant differences in turfgrass quality, but many greenkeepers found the fairway mown with the robotic mower to be more consistent than the control fairway
A survey among more than 400 players on their attitude to robotic mowers vs. conventional mowers was conducted in autumn 2020 at Jönköping, Grenå and Bærheim. The responses showed an overall positive attitude to robotic mowers, but many players asked about implications of the new technology for the rules of the game. Good communication with players is therefore important before introducing robot mowers. The survey will be repeated at the end of the project in 2023.

 

Contact
Trygve S. Aamlid

Trygve S. Aamlid, NIBIO Division for Environment and Natural Resources, Turfgrass Research Group, Landvik, N-4886 Grimstad, Norway. Tel. +47 90528378. E-mail: trygve.aamlid@nibio.no

FACTS
Category: Water, nutrients, construction
Status: Ongoing
Project period: 2020 - 2023

Fundings (kSEK)

 

2020

2021

2022

2023

Total

STERF

250

326

336

160

1072

Husqvarna

952

376

396

304

2028

Participating golf courses

81

83

83

0

250

Total

1283

785

818

464

3350

 

Project objectives

  • To generate and disseminate knowledge about implications for turfgrass quality, fertiliser requirement, weed encroachment and susceptibility to various diseases of switching from conventional manual mowers to robotic mowers on fairways and semi-roughs with grass species typical for Nordic golf courses.

  • To generate and disseminate knowledge about implications for labour and energy use, CO2-emissions and soil compaction of switching from conventional manual mowers to robotic mowers on fairways and semi-roughs with grass species typical for Nordic golf courses.

  • To generate and disseminate knowledge about implications for player and greenkeeper satisfaction of switching from conventional manual mowers to robotic mowers on fairways and semi-roughs with grass species typical for Nordic golf courses.