Meet Jordan Constant - M.Sc Candidate in the Department of Plant Agriculture

Posted on Monday, June 6th, 2016

Written by John R. Watson

Photo of Jordan Constant

Jordan Constant was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and spent his early childhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Valuing comedy in his every day activities, and his family being sports enthusiasts, Jordan explains that “We then moved to Mississauga, ON when I was very young because the Winnipeg Jets NHL team folded, and as a result my dad said it was time to find a new place to live.” It was in Mississauga where Jordan spent the majority of his childhood where he played both hockey and baseball describing them as “very Canadian things to do.” Jordan’s father was a baseball player and Jordan remarks that his life has always been very sports driven.

Jordan enrolled in many science courses in high school and went on to complete his undergraduate degree at Queens University in Kingston, ON; he desired to gain experience both in the field and in the laboratory. In his final undergraduate year, Jordan began working on a tall grass systems project as the focus of an independent research course. Jordan identified that turfgrass research was a great fit for him given his extensive sports background.

It was a total coincidence that Jordan was listening to the Toronto Blue Jays state of the franchise report over reading week in 2015 and a reporter asked the question “is there any movement on the natural grass project?” Being a fan, Jordan quickly learned that the Blue Jays had signed a contract with the University of Guelph (UofG) to commission a research project. Some rapid internet searching identified that Dr. Eric M. Lyons in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the UofG was selected by the Blue Jays as the principal investigator to examine the feasibility of growing natural turf inside Rogers Centre.

Jordan was attracted to the Toronto Blue Jays Natural Turfgrass Project for the potential of working with turf both in the lab and in the field. He follows his colleague Craig Harnock. M.Sc. Candidate, who has been researching turfgrass water use, transpiration and potential humidity loads that could be generated inside Rogers Centre from natural turf. Agrometeorological research will use Craig’s data to determine what the effects could be on the actual building structure. Other faculty involved with this exciting research collaboration are agricultural engineer Dr. W. Dave Lubitz, agricultural meteorologist Dr. Jon Warland, plant pathologist and turfgrass specialist Dr. Katerina Jordan and Dr. Mike Dixon, Professor/Director, Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility. In his Masters project, Jordan’s role is to determine once the turf is indoors, how to keep it healthy and photosynthesizing properly.

The working title of Jordan’s thesis is “The effect of artificial lighting on indoor sports turf.” Jordan notes that preliminary research indicates that “when the roof is open it provides excellent light.” He further explains that the issue for growing the natural turf is during the first eight weeks of the season where the Ontario climate is typically not conducive to opening the Rogers Centre roof, due to the potential for ice buildup on the mechanisms.

The current light systems in Rogers centre provide only a small fraction of the light that the turf actually requires to survive in a totally enclosed environment. In addition, Jordan notes “We are researching the optimal spectral combination (of light) for turf growth. What we do know currently is that the bulbs used for grow light systems are heavily focused in the green light spectrum.” Jordan further explains that the reason that grow lights appear so bright to us is because our eyes adapted to see reflected green light the best when we lived in forest understory, hence, why the brightest lights appear with that spectral quality. Jordan adds “we know that plants reflect green light the most and are most photosynthetically active in response to red and blue wavelengths of light. Full sun light includes saturating levels of these wavelengths.”

In his first experiment, Jordan used growth cabinets to determine the least amount of light that could be delivered to the turf to maintain it at an acceptable quality level. Interestingly enough, with the roof open, the reflected light from the blue seats in Rogers Centre provide a better than ideal spectrum of light and the turf will get more than adequate solar radiation. The reason for the excellent light availability inside Rogers Centre is because of the building’s directional orientation.

Four different species of sports turf that Jordan is evaluating in his research are Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Supina Bluegrass (Poa supina), and Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea). Supina bluegrass is used for sports fields some places in Europe, but also grows in forest understory. Jordan hypothesizes that growing turf under a low light natural environment might give the Supina bluegrass an edge for growing inside.

The Rogers Centre playing surface that would require natural turf installation to replace the artificial turf is approximately 9000m2 in size. –A standard pallet of sod provides 65m2 of coverage; that means it would take 138 pallets of sod, or 9660 rolls to cover the playing surface. It could also prove to be a challenge to harvest this extensive amount of dormant sod under winter conditions in Ontario. Other questions to be addressed in the research include:

  • Will the turf will become stressed when coming out of dormancy indoors?
  • Will the artificial lighting for the first 8 weeks of the season will be enough to keep the turf alive until the roof can be opened on a regular basis?
  • Is the duration of light the turf receives per day important for growing turf successfully or is it more of a factor of light intensity that contributes to growing turf successfully indoors?

Research in the greenhouse and controlled environments is examining:

  • Light quality and intensity based on treatments selected using results from Jordan’s initial study
  • Testing parameters related to turf coming out of dormancy successfully in growth chambers to start researching this issue of early season sod cutting and installation inside Rogers centre

Jordan notes that the desire for natural turf at the Rogers centre is real. He notes that the biggest problem with artificial turf is the perception from the athletes; they are constantly worried about getting injured and surveys have shown players are averse to a synthetic surface. Jordan has been to the Rogers centre for field research quite a few times throughout his short time here at UofG and describes the environment as “very special.”

Jordan has high praise for the grad school experience at the UofG: “Plant agriculture is a great department – it is very integrated and everyone is passionate about their projects and are very helpful - great community and great facilities.” Jordan also adds: “There is no more picturesque scene than beautifully manicured turf fields like we have at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute – great conditions and scenery for research – I couldn’t recommend it more.”

Jordan has some great inspirational words for a potential graduate student as well: “If you are interested in sport in any way and want to use your biology background in something you are passionate about, turf is the way to go. You don’t just have to work with golf and baseball turf. It is such a great applied stream and other possibilities are community soccer, parks, professional level sport, even landscape application - it has such a great connection to sport, and this is something that I feel a lot of people can get behind - a great area to do research in.” 

In closing, Jordan has some very positive words for the Toronto Blue Jays Natural Turfgrass Project - "As a fan, the prospect of a natural turf field in the Rogers Centre truly excites me. It is a pleasure for me to contribute to a team I've cheered on for years through my research."

Jordan’s M.Sc. project has been generously funded by: The Toronto Blue Jays


Article authored and published by John R. Watson, Guelph Turfgrass Institute Communications Assistant

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