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New Grasses on the Go

22 Dec 2015 Research

Watching grass grow – on the face of it – doesn’t sound like an exciting pastime.

For one organisation however, it brings a whole new level of anticipation of things to come with possible new turf-types available in the not-too- distant-future.

Harvesting a few new rolls of turf might not seem all that exciting either, but when it’s the only grass of its type in the world then there’s probably good reason to smile about it.

This was the case just recently when Gavin Rogers and his Son Joe cut the first few strips of Zoysia and other turf-types from a series of trial plots from one of their research facilities at Berry, on the New South Wales South Coast.

Gavin is a director of Lawn Solutions Australia that represents some 43 turf growers nationwide.

These new turf-types are planned to become part of the new stable of grasses to fit in with a number of other well-known Lawn Solutions Australia grass brands.

Speaking after the harvest, Gavin says that the sense of expectation placed in some of these grasses was quite high and could have huge ramifications for the industry nationwide.

“As our new grasses progress I am excited to say that Lawn Solutions Australia now has one of the largest number of future-grasses on trial in Australia.

 

“We’re looking at quite a number of turf varieties at the moment including different types of couches, kikuyus, buffalos as well as these newer grasses we’re interested in; the zoysia grasses.”

According to Gavin, Lawn Solutions Australia has been working for a number of years on new turf varieties from around Australia and oversees, predominantly with breeders and researchers from here and the United States.

“We’ve been working closely with a number of organisations to ultimately tap into the latest genetics when it comes to turf varieties. We’ve imported a number of grasses and are also working on a number of native varieties to try and find some with unique turf qualities,” he says.

Turf and lawn areas have come under the microscope over recent years as water restrictions and increasingly tighter lawn-maintenance budgets squeeze more performance from different turf types.

The drought a few years ago was probably the biggest factor that triggered Lawn Solutions Australia to embark on the quest to find turf types that required less inputs as far as water, nutrients and herbicides were concerned.

“Green space and turf has got a renewed vigour in the community as people have realised the important environmental aspects; the cooling, erosion control and filtration properties; the many health benefits of quality open space as well as the economic benefits that come with all that.

“And it was during the drought,” he says, “that community attitudes shifted with people looked upon poorly for watering their lawns and gardens and that gave rise to a lot of other surface coverings coming onto the scene.”

Attitudes seem to have changed in recent years with a greater focus from architects and planners on green open space, the heat-island-effect and the increasing decline of park and playground-space in our urban areas.

Finding a true wonder grass probably isn’t going to happen says Gavin, but he maintains they’ll go fairly close. He says that what they’ve seen so far in a number of these new varieties will make for dramatic changes in years to come.

“We’ll be able to cut watering, fertiliser and maintenance by up to a half with some of these grass-types and there will be a lesser need for pesticides and herbicides from what we’ve seen already.

“We’ve got a few of the native types we’re working on that will barely need mowing at all and their matt or sward is so dense that hardly any weeds can compete,” he says.

Quizzed on release dates for the grasses Gavin says there’s still a lot more work to do.

“We’ve got our current stand-out brands, Sir Walter DNA-Specified Buffalo, Nullarbor Couch, Eureka Kikuyu and Platinum Zoysia and most of these are available Australia-wide and are performing extremely well.”

He says that if Lawn Solutions Australia are going to release any of these new turf-types they will need to have some clearly discernible performance and environmental benefits over their current range of grasses.

“It’s about knowing what will work and what won’t. We don’t claim to be scientists, but we certainly work with many and what we’re looking for on top of the genetics is what we call our 30-30 test. We literally want to see a difference from thirty meters away while driving past at thirty kilometres an hour.

“Our mission statement spells it out fairly clearly; while we’ve got the best grasses for today, we’re working on the best for tomorrow. And by the look of the results so far that might not be too far away,” he concluded.

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