Fred Grau, 88, Dies; Developer of Grasses

(Note: This is a small way of thanking both Fred Graus for their tireless efforts and devotion to an inspired calling. While there are those today whose "economic, often grant-award motivation" seeks to give a black eye to "invasive," "non-native" species under the guise that all which is deemed "native" is good and everything else must be extinguished as "bad," the Graus have educated so many on the falseness of this "invasive species" Trojan horse. Crownvetch is a blessing and truly a "gift," as are species like daylilies, myriad species of animals and plants that serve, each in its own special niche, and the melting pot of "non-natives" that made America great: us! Countless are those of us who are forever indebted to one or the other, or both. Thank you, Fred Grau Junior and Senior!)
Published December 6, 1990

Fred V. Grau, an agronomist who developed a legume that is used widely to prevent soil erosion and beautify highway slopes, died Saturday at Prince George's Community Hospital in Cheverly, Maryland. He was 88 years old and lived in College Park, Maryland.

He died of congestive heart failure, his daughter, Ellen Mentzer of Silver Spring, Maryland, said.

Dr. Grau received his doctorate in 1935 at the University of Maryland. He was the founder of Grasslyn, Inc. and adapted crownvetch, a perennial that is widely cultivated for its pink flowers and tenacious roots, for commercial use. He also helped develop zoysia varieties that require small amounts of water and fertilizer and are used on athletic fields.

He was a specialist in turf grasses and from 1945 to 1953 was director of the United States Golf Association Green Section.

Dr. Grau was an agricultural extension agent at Pennsylvania State University and was later with the Department of Agriculture's Beltsville Agricultural Research Station of the Department of Agriculture.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, Fred Jr. of State College, Pennsylvania; a sister, Edith Reynolds of Pensacola, Florida, and six grandchildren. 0


Chapter 1: Origins of the Program — The People Who Made It Happen

In 1928, Joseph Valentine, T.L. Gustin, and James Bolton paid a call to Ralph Hetzel, president of The Pennsylvania State College, to ask for research in turfgrass. No one dreamed that this visit would be the genesis of one of the finest turfgrass management programs in the country. Today, the program's success is due to the dedication, hard work, and vision of several significant individuals, including turfgrass scientists, golf course superintendents, teachers, and inventors. Each has a story to tell.

Fred V. Grau

At Fred V. Grau's wedding in 1938, the guests didn't shower the happy couple with handfuls of rice. Instead, they threw grass seed. It was an appropriate symbol: Grau, who had joined Penn State's faculty three years earlier as its first extension turf specialist, took great pride in making turfgrass his life's work.

Grau earned his Ph.D. in agronomy from the University of Maryland in 1935. “Of course, it was during the Great Depression,” he recalled in a 1986 interview. “There were no jobs and there was very little money, and all I could afford was gas for my Model A Ford, to drive around Maryland and study pastures. In those days, people would strip sod from pastures to put on their lawns. So the lawns were weedy and full of crabgrass. That was one of the main turfgrass problems in the early days.”

Despite the times, Grau was fortunate enough to land a job as an agronomy extension specialist at Penn State in 1935. “Penn State's turfgrass program was a primitive one in the beginning,” he said. “I'd travel around the state, and golf course superintendents would tell me what problems they were having with their grass. I'd bring the problems back to Burt Musser, who was the first turfgrass researcher at Penn State, and he would look for solutions.”

Perhaps Grau is best known for his discovery of crownvetch, a ground cover that beautifies roadways and prevents erosion nationwide. Just a few years after joining the Penn State faculty, Grau spotted an unusual plant growing outside of Reading.

“Robert Gift, on whose farm I discovered the plant, called it ‘dot veed’ because it was so persistent,” Grau recalled later. “Its beautiful pink and white flowers, its ability to grow on poor shale soil and to cover nearly vertical slopes with an erosion-proof mat really attracted my attention. Mr. Gift permitted me to hand-harvest some seed.”

Crownvetch, with its beautiful pink and white flowers!

After studying the plant at Penn State, Grau and colleagues identified it as crownvetch.

Of European origin, crownvetch apparently entered the United States as a contaminant in alfalfa seed that was grown in Europe.

It spread to the hillsides and grew well in bad soil. “In fact, the poorer the soil, the better it grows,” says Joseph M. Duich, professor emeritus of turfgrass science, who was involved in the later stages of crownvetch research. “While it starts out slowly, it shoots out runners and you don't have to fertilize it.”

As a result of the research on crownvetch, Grau began to grow the plant commercially, and the Penngift crownvetch industry was born.

Grau and Penn State turfgrass researcher H.B. Musser realized that Penngift crownvetch had great potential as a ground cover for roadsides and highway median strips.

They contacted Wes Hottenstein, who was in charge of roadside development in Pennsylvania, and this team initiated research projects with the Pennsylvania Highway Department, which funded the research. Penn State graduate student John Stanford, who received his Ph.D. in agronomy in 1951, focused his work on crownvetch research plots outside of Port Matilda.

"Fred Grau undoubtedly started the crownvetch industry,” says Duich. Today Penngift crownvetch is recognized as the official conservation plant of Pennsylvania.

During Grau's Penn State career, he took time out to serve in World War II, but continued working with turfgrass all the same. "Fred Grau and Burt Musser both served in World War II,” says Thomas Watschke, professor of turfgrass science. “They both worked with grass air strips, expanding their knowledge about turf, mainly in construction of grass runways. When they returned, they did a lot of highway work, including the crownvetch project. It's interesting that these guys were working on grass air strips and highways, when you think that the formation of Penn State's turfgrass program was largely to serve the golf industry -- but they were doing what the country needed at the time.”

Grau played a major role in the development and release of several grasses, including Meyer zoysia and U-3 (a Bermudagrass strain), as well as Merion bluegrass. Merion bluegrass is recognized as the first improved Kentucky bluegrass and was discovered by superintendent Joseph Valentine at the Merion Golf Club. In the late 1940s, Grau was serving as executive director of the USGA Green Section, which was conducting turfgrass research in Washington, D.C., at the site where the Pentagon now stands.

“When the Pentagon was built, the work moved to the Agricultural Experiment Station in Beltsville, Maryland,” Duich explains. “During the move, somebody accidentally plowed up the Merion bluegrass plants, which Fred had been working with. About a teaspoonful of the original seed was here at Penn State, and we resurrected it.”

Eventually, Merion bluegrass was released through the USGA and Department of Agriculture and went on to become a standard American fairway grass.

Throughout his career, Grau was active in numerous professional organizations and received many awards, among them the distinguished service award from the GCSAA and the USGA Green Section Award.

A turfgrass science award given by the Crop Science Society of America carries Grau's name.

Grau was instrumental in forming the Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council, which was established in 1955. He served as the council's executive director from 1968 to 1975 and as executive secretary from 1976 to 1981.

In 1969 Grau was also instrumental in founding the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support research through graduate student awards. He was a life time member of the American Society of Agronomy.

Those who knew Grau were familiar with his unbridled enthusiasm for the turf industry. He was a staunch believer in turfgrass as a commodity that improves the quality of life. His signature on correspondence was almost always preceded with “Sincerely yours FOR BETTER TURF....” In one letter written to a reporter in the 1980s, Grau even credited Meyer zoysia grass for protecting a friend from serious injury:

"In early November, Sam [Matthews, a National Geographic photographer] was on a ladder at the second story window at his home. He fell, hit the ground flat on his back, was not hurt! He landed on his lawn of Meyer zoysia! The turf and the soft soil were like a huge cushion. Two weeks later the Matthews imprint still shows.

The rapport that exists among us in turfgrass is so real that it can be said that at times it assumes form. It is a priceless commodity."

“Talking about turfgrass history releases a flood of memories,” Grau said in 1986. “What were the highlights? That's a tough question. I'm proud of Penn State's graduate program in turfgrass, which has given us national and international leaders in the field, Joe Duich and Jack Harper among them. I'm glad I ‘discovered’ James Watson at the first Texas Turf Conference and sent him to Professor Musser to do graduate work in turfgrass. Jim was the first person to receive a doctorate in turfgrass science. I remember I used to let him use part of my farm near State College for experimental plots.”

“A major accomplishment was helping to organize a turf committee in the American Society of Agronomy back in 1946,” Grau continued. “That was important because it opened doors to turfgrass programs at other universities. Up until then, ‘turf’ was a bad word in agriculture. It was considered a rich man's word that evoked images of golf courses and racetracks. When the ASA recognized turfgrass as a legitimate part of agriculture, programs and research projects began to spring up, and the industry grew.”


"Another influential and legendary turf man was the late Dr. Fred Grau. A great friend of turf managers, Dr. Grau was the first turf extension agronomist (at Penn State) in the U.S.

STMA [Sports Turf Managers Association] Historian Dr. Kent Kurtz reports that Dr. Henry Indyk, who passed away last year, started the Dr. Fred Grau Scholarship with funds left over from the National Sports Turf Council after it was disbanded subsequent to Grau’s death."

Excerpted from:


Danneberger Receives Turfgrass Science Award


November 29, 2004


By Sara Uttech, Pamela Sherratt and Victor van Buchem or 614-292-7457 ut=html&-response=record_detailpub.htm&-recordID=34069&-search and or 614-292-3319 ut=html&-response=record_detailpub.htm&-recordID=34088&-search


T. Karl Danneberger -- or 614-292-8491 -- received the Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America, presented at the 2004 Annual Meetings of CSSA, held in conjunction with the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) October 31 to November 4 in Seattle, Washington.

Karl Danneberger was honored to be recognized by his peers. "Fred Grau was an icon in the turf industry and to receive this award from my peers is one, if not the, highlight of my professional career. It's quite humbling," said Danneberger, a Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University.

Dr. Danneberger earned his B.S. degree from Purdue University, his M.S. degree from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. degree from Michigan State University. His program focuses mainly on turfgrass ecology and physiology. He served as associate editor for Crop Science, co-editor for International Turfgrass Society Journal along with being active in the C5 Division Turfgrass Science.

The Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award is presented by CSSA and is supported by a fund developed by Division C-5 Turfgrass Science. The award is presented in recognition of significant career contributions in turfgrass science. The principal criteria for selecting the recipient are significance and originality of research, teaching effectiveness, implementation of programs in extension and/or industry, administrative effectiveness, and total impact on turfgrass science.

This award is presented in recognition of significant career contributions in turfgrass science during the past 15 years. His research program has been among the first to apply modern molecular techniques to genetic analysis of turfgrass species. This includes the development of Random Amplified DNA (RAPD) technology and sampling techniques that allow for new approaches to questions regarding cool season turfgrass community dynamics that previously were difficult to tackle. His research group was one of the first to use RAPD's as a method for cultivar identification of cool season turfgrasses.

Dr. Danneberger is also the coordinator of the undergraduate turfgrass program. The program has grown from 30 students in 1985 to over 110 students presently. He was hired as an Assistant Professor in what was then the Department of Agronomy in 1983.

The award is named in honor of Fred V. Grau who was the National Director of The United States Golf Association Green Section from 1945 through 1953. Dr. Grau's many accomplishments included decentralizing the USGA research program. This involved reducing the amount of research conducted in house and increasing and distributing research dollars to turf experiment stations across the country. The program was extremely successful as turfgrass management programs at land-grant institutions grew from 10 turfgrass scientists at 5 experiment stations in 1945 to more than 100 researchers at more than 20 experiment stations in 1951. He also became associated with the development and release of improved turfgrasses including Merion Kentucky bluegrass, Meyer zoyiagrass, and U-3 bermudagrass.

The Agronomic Science Foundation (ASF) is the philanthropic arm of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). These educational organizations help their 11,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy, crop and soil sciences by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.