All this past week I taught a short course on Turfgrass Management at the University. It was pretty much the same type of standard short course we teach all over the world - three days of teaching and discussion (9 to 4 am every day) followed by a Friday tour of turfgrass sites. The 15 atendees were everything from golf course superintendents to Mauritius extension employees to a past Mauritiuan national team soccer player and coach of the National team. In all, a great group of guys - fun and quite interested in and knowledgeable about turf. I can say that I learned as much as I may have taught them.
There is a little bit of sod farming on the island. This is Saint Augustinegrass (they call it buffalograss) being harvested. Note the really big areas of sod left in between the harvested slabs. The cut area is refilled with soil and allowed to regrow.
Our tour went South to the Southern tip of the island to a town called Bel Ombre, and then we headed West along the coast, turning North to Tamarin (which is S of Flic N Flac). Then back to the center of the island to Curpipe (for the football field) and then to Vacoas (Gymkana Club). The picture above is of an old sugar can plantation processing plant that is being turned into upscale shopping, near Bel Ombre. The entire area is slowly being transformed from sugar cane (once 90% of the island economy in the 1970s and 80s) to tourism. Estimates from the guys is that sugar cane is now maybe 30% of the economy, falling due to a drop in price supports.
On the left is Allan, who is the heads of the greens comittee at Gymkana, and on the right is Jamie, the superintendent at the Bel Ombre course. This course is 100% Seashore paspalum, including the greens. It is a most beautiful course, and cost to a tourist is 100.00 US to play. Note: Mauritian prices for pretty much anything on the island are always significantly less (usually 1/2 to 1/3). The other Fulbrighters (Anna and Daniel) who are car shopping, usually have the cost of car increase by 1/2 as soon as the sellers note that they are not Mauritian. All Europeans are viewed as being very rich, and South Africans are especially viewed as being wealthy. And you know what? By Mauritian standards - we are! That is why I do not tend to bargin, as why should I have a 2 minute argument with a taxi driver over 50Ru ($1.25)? He most certainly needs it more than I do.
The paspalum fairway at Bel Ombre. They do this with a very limited selction of herbicides and fungicides. Far less inputs than compared to the US. One issue if the water quality, which comes from the irrigated sugar cane fields - several guys at the workshop wondered about levels of P, which is an excellent question.
A view of the western coast as we drove from Bel Ombre to Tamarin. Miles of this - no people, no shops - just clear clear water. It looks beautiful but has a deadly undertow - swimming is very dangerous.
Sam got a wee bit bus sick on the tour. Since Friday is a half day and we toured all day I just took the kids out of school and brought them along. Sticking his head out the window was his solution to car sick.
Weed control at the New King George V football stadium in Curepipe. This stadium was such a shame. Several of the guys on the tour had played for National teams (or coached) and they remembered years of packed crowds (35,000) and great excitement. You had to buy tickets off the black market and everyone came and cheered. In the past five years it has all declined, and now maybe a few thousand attend the games. When I asked why I got sort of vague answers, but it seems to stem from the fact that the past teams did have religious affiliations (Hindi and Muslim) and the names and devotees reflected that. That led to a lot of hooliganism, and that led to it all being stopped. Now everyone is rabid fans of English football (the big league teams) and they all stay home to watch Manchester United or Barclays, etc. on TV. I think I'm going to get involved to try to get the stadium in better shape - hope to meet with the National Minister of Sports next week. Very cool!
Posing for a picture at the football satdium.
Since I had a tour all day Friday I gave my students the day off from lecture. When we got back here they all were - playing dominoes at school! I made them pose for a picture.
This is a graduate from the U of M program, who is now the farm foreman for Medine Sugar Estates. Medine is one of the largest sugar cane plantations on the island and they are diversifying into turf, vegetables and ornamentals in an attempt to find alternatives to sugar cane.