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Wisdom from Waco: Why a scanner can be a helpful tool for supers

By |  January 27, 2023 1 Comments

I have never met a good turf manager who wasn’t willing to occasionally get down on their stomach and get as close a look as possible at the plant that pays the rent. Even after more than 50 years of working with golf course turf, I’m still amazed at the complexity and intricacy of the world beneath our feet.

While there are plenty of great tools to help you get that close look, there is one that is extremely effective but often overlooked — the flatbed scanner.

We tend to think of scanners serving only to convert a 2D image into a digital image. However, scanners are also very good at scanning 3D items with amazing resolution and clarity. Unlike a microscope, where you change lenses to increase magnification, with a scanner, you change the resolution of the scanned image. Subjects to scan include turfgrass leaves, insects and sand particles.

Easy ID

Scanning turfgrass leaves, crowns and roots prove invaluable for disease identification. You can easily share the scanned image with a pathologist to help you make a good treatment decision. The picture will also reveal how sharp or dull your mowers might be.

A plug removed with a cup cutter provides a great sample for scanning (left). Laying the plug grass side down will provide a perfect close-up of the turf (center). Look at the detail in this 1,200 DPI scan of the plug. This scan shows Pythium-damaged leaves, the need for a sharper mower and less than ideal coverage of a fungicide application (right).

A plug removed with a cup cutter provides a great sample for scanning (left). Laying the plug grass side down will provide a perfect close-up of the turf (center). Look at the detail in this 1,200 DPI scan of the plug. This scan shows Pythium-damaged leaves, the need for a sharper mower and less than ideal coverage of a fungicide application (right). (Photos: Jim Moore)

Scanning insects is much the same. A close-up of the bug in question can help you be certain you are using the correct chemistry or if treatment is necessary. Scanning sand might, at first, seem a bit strange. However, by laying a ruler next to the sand on the scanner bed, you can easily determine if the sand at your course is of the proper size and angularity.

There is no end to the 3D items you can scan. Some reveal the beauty you would otherwise never see. For example, a close-up of a healthy root system shows just how amazing turfgrass plants really are.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a flatbed scanner. For less than $200, you can pick up a very good scanner capable of doing everything you need. Don’t let the resolution numbers confuse you. You will seldom — if ever — need to scan anything at more than 1,200 DPI (dots per inch), a resolution even the cheapest scanners can produce. Scanners almost always come with all the scanning software you will need.

Once you hook up your scanner, simply place your subject face down on the glass. It helps to place a blank sheet of paper over the item to give a good background to the scanned image. Different colors of paper can produce really dramatic images.

This article is tagged with , and posted in Columns, From the Magazine

About the Author: Jim Moore

Jim Moore is the retired director of education and outreach for the USGA Green Section. While with USGA, Moore made more than 1,000 consulting visits to golf courses in the U.S., Mexico and Germany. Now retired, he lives on the family farm in McGregor, Texas.


1 Comment on "Wisdom from Waco: Why a scanner can be a helpful tool for supers"

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  1. Don Cole says:

    Were can you buy a scanner?

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