Turfgrass Research Grows

From New Jersey to Norway and China
Photo: Prof. Bingru Huang.

Professor Bingru Huang

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is well known for its exceptional turfgrass research program. In fact, Rutgers-bred turfgrass can be found everywhere from New York's Central Park to Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. And most of the best turf seed commercially available has Rutgers' stamp on it in one way or another.

That's all thanks to the Center for Turfgrass Science, a unit of Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Such is the center's reputation that it has robust research and education partnerships with universities in countries as far flung as Norway and China.

In 2006, Bingru Huang, a professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology and a researcher at the center, started a collaboration with Trygve S. Aamlid, a professor at Bioforsk, the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research. The project, "Velvet green: Winter hardiness and management of velvet bentgrass on putting greens in northern environments," is being funded by the Research Council of Norway's North American and Norwegian Initiative.

The project involves bringing Norwegian graduate students in turfgrass science to Rutgers for research and study. This year, Huang hosted Tanja Espevig, a doctoral student, in her lab to conduct part of the collaborative project on proteomic analysis of cold tolerance in velvet and creeping bentgrass. The goal of the project was to identify proteins that regulate cold tolerance in these turf species--an important characteristic for grasses grown in colder Scandinavian and North American climes. This research will be included in Espevig's dissertation.

Huang's collaborations aren't limited to Norway. In her native China, Huang has established deep ties with several premiere universities, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Beijing Forestry University, and the Agricultural University of Hebei. Currently, she is co-advising several post-doctoral researchers and graduate students on their research projects along with professors at their home universities. Top doctoral students who have completed their coursework in China have been selected to come to Huang's lab to conduct dissertation research. Once the students have completed their research, they return to their home university in China to receive their degree.

In 2006, Huang received the Chang Jiang Scholarship from the Chinese Ministry of Education in 2006. This scholarship provided research support of more than 1.5 million yuan (approximately $220,000) from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Chinese National Science Foundation. With those funds, Huang has helped Shanghai Jiao Tong University to establish a turfgrass stress physiology lab, which focuses on drought, heat, salt, and heavy metal stresses on turfgrass growth.

"The lab is equipped with advanced technology in plant physiology and is now fully operational," Huang said, "which provides Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science with an excellent platform for research collaboration."

Undergraduates from Shanghai Jiao Tong University will also benefit from Rutgers' outstanding reputation for turfgrass education. Huang has been integral in putting together a 2+2 program in plant science between Rutgers and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University who are admitted into the program take courses for the first two years in China and then transfer into the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences as juniors. These students complete the requirements of the college and the major into which they have been admitted.

Students in the program receive a diploma from both universities. The joint curriculum and transfer agreement have been approved by the universities and the first cohort of students will be admitted in 2009-2010.

These collaborations across universities and across nations expand the worldview of Rutgers students and provide students and faculty alike with new and unique opportunities for research and education with a global reach.

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