Turfgrass expert clips last blades of grass for research purposes

Dr. Richard White retires from Texas A&M
Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu

Dr. Richard White intends to sit back and let the grass grow under his feet for a while after spending 29 years helping develop turf for Texas’ sometimes unforgiving conditions.

White retired from his positions as a professor in the Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences department and Texas A&M AgriLife Research turfgrass management scientist in College Station on Aug. 31.

Richard White

He came to Texas A&M after working as an assistant professor at Rutgers University-Cook College in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University and his doctorate from Virginia Tech.

White started as an assistant research scientist in 1989 at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas and then moved to College Station in 1993 as an associate professor.

His teaching responsibilities included undergraduate courses and advising and directing graduate students.

crowd of people sitting at tables in large conference room

Family, friends and colleagues filled the Scotts Miracle-Gro Facility to celebrate Richard White’s retirement.

“Dr. White was instrumental in developing the turfgrass science major for the department and has served as a leader in advanced teaching techniques and assessment,” said Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the Texas A&M soil and crop sciences department.

In his research program, White worked on cycling composted cattle manure through turfgrass sod as a water quality conservation tool and conducted extensive research work on many new dwarf Bermuda grass cultivars. He also spent considerable time improving water management to enhance the performance of creeping bent grass in the southern U.S., as well as on many other issues associated with water management and conservation.

group of men standing on grass

Dr. Richard White speaks to members of the USGA during a visit to the Texas A&M turfgrass research plots.

“My research program also contributed to applied programs in irrigation water management and conservation and results in the refinement of management strategies that reduce cultural inputs required to maintain turfgrass areas,” White said.

White co-developed four zoysia grasses, one bent grass, one perennial ryegrass and two annual ryegrass cultivars.

large group of people near lawn area with sprinklers running.

Dr. Richard White, Texas A&M AgriLife Research turfgrass scientist, discussed the new surface water runoff facility at a field day. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Some highlights of his career included:
– Being one of the first programs to conduct research on ultra-dwarf Bermuda grasses and directing a graduate student that discovered thermo-morphogenesis in dwarf Bermuda grasses.
– Working with several colleagues, the Texas Turfgrass Association and others to start the Texas Turfgrass Research, Education and Extension Endowment.
– Helping develop several turfgrass cultivars that are used extensively in the green industry, such as Palisades zoysia grass.
– Working with colleagues and a corporate partner to design and construct one of the world’s largest automated runoff facilities for water quality research.
– Serving on the Faculty and Student Advisory Board for the Center for Teaching Excellence.
– Helping a team develop a patented system to reduce landscape irrigation runoff.
– Providing assistance in the construction of Ellis Field, Olsen Field – now Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park, and more recently providing input on the Kyle Field redevelopment project.
– Receiving the Founders Award from the Turfgrass Producers of Texas in 2013.

“Dr. White has been a national leader for the turf industry, working across a broad range of industry, academic and agency partners to advance the role turfgrass can play in enhancing our environment,” Baltensperger said.

Perhaps White’s most enduring legacy will be his shepherding of the ScottsMiracle-Gro Facility for Lawn and Garden Research, located at 3100 F&B Road in College Station, through its 15-year journey to reality.

group of men by sign outside the new Scott'sMiracle-Gro Facility for Lawn and Garden Research.

Dr. Richard White led the 15-year effort to bring the new turfgrass facility to TAMU.

White coordinated the design and development of the facility to provide the needed infrastructure and facilities for the turfgrass program. He had already developed and constructed a state-of-the-art surface water runoff facility at the same location in collaboration with other soil and crop sciences personnel and the Scotts Company.

He is a member of the Crop Science Society of America, Sports Turf Managers Association and an advisor to the board of Texas Turfgrass Association.

He has been recognized with two Texas A&M University Vice-Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Research Team Awards; the Texas Environmental Excellence Award for the Rio Grande Basin Initiative in the Agriculture category; and the Texas A&M University Soil and Crop Sciences Department Award for Teaching.

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