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The Tombros Early Career Professorship

In February 2014, Peter Tombros ’64 Agricultural Science, ’68g Agricultural Economics established the Tombros Early Career Professorship in the College of Agricultural Sciences. John Kaminski, associate professor of turfgrass management, was selected as the first holder of the $500,000 professorship.

“I am very appreciative of the contributions from Peter and Ann, which will allow me to focus on expanding my research program,” says Kaminski. “These funds will be used directly to support a graduate student project. As funding becomes more competitive and difficult to obtain, the continued annual support from this professorship will serve as a primary resource to expand turfgrass research at Penn State.”

Kaminski’s research focuses on pest management and agronomic issues related to golf course turf. His recent accomplishment was the discovery and identification of a completely new disease called “thatch collapse.” The disease has now been found on golf course putting greens throughout the world. Kaminski’s initial work examined the causal agent and biology of the organism. Now he is focusing on the epidemiological aspects of the disease, as well as management options.

In addition to basic pest management work, Kaminski also is heavily involved in a new project that seeks to model the impacts of specific chemical and cultural practices that are employed in the agronomic preparation of golf course tournaments. These practices, such as ultra-low mowing heights and frequent rolling and brushing of the turf surface, often come at an extreme cost to turfgrass health.

“Developing a mathematical model based on environmental conditions and agronomic inputs will help golf course superintendents maximize green speeds while limiting the negative impacts on plant health,” says Kaminski.

Why turfgrass management and why Kaminski?

“I always knew that Penn State’s turfgrass program was one of the best in the country,” says Tombros. “Then I met John Kaminski, and through my discussions with him I began to feel that this was one of those programs in agricultural sciences that deserved to be rewarded. John will be the first to hold the professorship, but sometime later it may move to a different young professor, perhaps even in a different field, as a way of rewarding and promoting excellence.”

—Sara LaJeunesse