With record temperatures and rainfall, the unseasonable winter weather has left many grassed areas stressed and in need of some tender loving care. Several actions will be needed to restore the sward this spring and in most cases overseeding will be necessary to restore damaged areas and to thicken and strengthen the sward.
This season groundsmen and greenkeepers have even more choice with plenty of new cultivars and new and improved mixtures in the 2016 catalogues — and for speed and increased success there are new seed treatments too.
Hitting the headlines at BTME, the turf management exhibition in Harrogate in January, Johnsons Sports Seed’s ProNitro and Rigby Taylor’s Germin-8 are two new grass seed treatments developed to stimulate and accelerate germination and emergence. The former, a 4G seed coat technology, is heralded as the "next generation" of seed technology and sees the introduction of a number of "J Nitro" mixtures for the coming season and beyond.
Developed in-house by DLF, ProNitro is designed to deliver high-quality seed while lowering inputs such as herbicides, fertilisers and water for a longer time. This coating focuses on improving nutrient utilisation during the early stages and contains 15 per cent nitrogen in fast-acting and slow-release forms.
"By combining the seed and fertiliser, the new seed receives the full benefit of the nutrients rather than the surrounding plants — especially important when overseeding into a competitive sward," points out DLF amenity sales manager Derek Smith. "The roots and shoots grow rapidly, up to 30 per cent increase in root growth, and the seedlings become strong and vigorous with up to 34 per cent more viable plants. In addition, this improves the use of all available soil nutrients and decreases nutrient loss by fixation or leaching."
Nitrogen uptake with ProNitro is said to be up to four times more efficient compared with ordinary broadcast-applied fertilisers.
Comprising a potent liquid cocktail of speciality penetrating surfactants, nutrients, sugars and mycorrhizae, Rigby Taylor’s Germin-8 is also pre-applied to each individual seed as a permanent coating. When root zone moisture is present, Germin-8’s surfactant, with penetrant properties, provides effective penetration of water into the seed by lowering the surface tension. The ingredients then stimulate rapid cell division for faster germination and emergence.
At the active germination stage, each seed then has immediate access to the package of targeted nutrients, sugars and micronised mycorrhizae. Accelerated germination enables the emerging plants to benefit from applications of pre-seed fertiliser and biostimulants to significantly increase the speed of establishment. In addition, as the dust-free coating adds a mere two per cent to the seed mass, there is no need to increase seed sowing rates.
"Germin-8 offers excellent benefits in cold and wet climatic conditions, leading to higher plant survival following renovation. This, together with appropriate aeration, contributes significantly to its rapid transfer from plant seedling to established-sward stage," explains Rigby Taylor seed research and development manager Jane Leyland.
In trials on perennial ryegrass, red fescues, browntop bent and smooth-stalked meadow-grass, Germin-8 achieved a germination increase of 83-100 per cent 10 days after treatment, compared with untreated seed.
From DLF, the slender creeping red fescue Nigella is said to demonstrate exceptional density, making it key to a number of Johnsons’ mixtures for both fairway and close-mown management. The improved colour and disease resistance further enhance the visual merit of this new cultivar, which is already providing new formulations of J Green and J Fescue mixtures.
The latest ryegrass from Limagrain is Alison, a cultivar following in the footsteps of Venice, Malibu and Cyrena and set to be part of the MM50 grass seed mixture. Alison is a fine-leaved ryegrass noted for its shoot density and wear tolerance as well as its recovery ability, making it suitable for all cricket squares, golf tees, fairways and multi-use sports fields. Disease resistance is a key attribute, along with tolerance to close mowing.
Chart-topping perennial ryegrass Cabrio made its debut at BTME at the beginning of the year. The cultivar boasts a fineness of leaf score of 9.2 and a mean score of 8.3 as a new cultivar on table L1 of the Turfgrass Seed booklet for 2016. It will be available exclusively from Germinal as part of the company’s Grade A grass seed mixtures.
Germinal amenity sales manager Richard Brown is confident of Cabrio’s success. "A mean score of 8.3 should put it at the top of the main L1 table in 2017," he predicts. "The current top-rated variety has a mean score of 8.1 so we are confident that Cabrio will be a popular choice for next year’s seeding operations."
He adds: "Most excitingly, it has a fineness of leaf score of 9.2, which far and away surpasses any rival variety. This gives greenkeepers as well as cricket and tennis grounds and turf growers an excellent opportunity of growing harder-wearing swards that can not only tolerate a close-mowing regime but which will also give good ball roll or bounce and will be very attractive aesthetically."
Cabrio, recommended for use on golf tees, tennis courts and cricket outfields, will be included in Germinal’s A5 Cricket, Tennis & Tees mixture, A10 Golf Tees Divot Repairs mixture and A28 Superfine Ryegolf & Outfield mixture.
Committed to continuous product development, Rigby Taylor is looking at a range of grass seeding solutions in a sports wear trial at the Sports Turf Research Institute in Bingley. As a direct result of the outcomes it has introduced 100 per cent perennial ryegrass blend R25 CRT.
A balanced combination of creeping, tetraploid and top-performing diploid perennial ryegrasses, it delivers fast establishment, excellent wear tolerance and superior combined disease tolerance.
The trial involves 24 grass seed mixtures and blends, with wear delivered by a differential slip wear machine — the same as used to generate wear data for the Turfgrass Seed booklet.
Sowing was carried out in July 2014 and significant differences noted between the mixtures during emergence, with R14CR, including creeping perennial ryegrass, demonstrating fast and early establishment.
While top-performing diploids individually achieve higher wear scores than creeping and tetraploid ryegrasses in turfgrass seed trials, both demonstrated their excellent wear capabilities when combined with the diploids. When it came to disease tolerance, the benefits of the ryegrasses should not be underestimated. Creeping ryegrass cultivar Fiesta 4 provided significant improvements to leaf spot tolerance while mixtures and blends containing the creeping or tetraploid ryegrasses had superior tolerance to red thread.
For UK arenas, Barenbrug has introduced RPR Stadium, a dedicated winter sports ryegrass blend aimed at elite pitches. The mix, featuring new cultivar Barlibro, solves the four biggest challenges faced by stadium managers by offering wear tolerance, camera-ready colour, disease tolerance and faster recovery.
Targeted at construction or renovation of winter pitches, Barenbrug’s reformulated BAR 7 includes new cultivars such as Barorlando and Barcristalla, introduced last year, and the new 2016 cultivars Eurocordus and Eurosport. As a result, BAR 7 now contains four of the top seven varieties listed in the latest Turfgrass Seed booklet.
BAR Extreme has been updated with Barolympic, voted first for summer sports in the 2016 Turfgrass Seed booklet. Said to give "ironclad" results, the seed offers wear tolerance and fine-leaved aesthetics for close-mown summer sports turf and particularly for hard-working cricket squares, golf tees, fairways and walkways.
Barenbrugh-bred RPR technology has led to the next-generation grass seed Extreme RPR. Combining all the benefits of BAR Extreme with a new dimension of recovery, Extreme RPR has now been added to BAR Platinum, BAR Medal and BAR Salt & Drought. It is recommended for fine turf areas maintained at a minimum cut height of 10mm and is applicable for devoting or overseeding high-wear golf tees.
Other introductions include Ignite creeping bent grass, voted the densest bent grass available, and BAR Fescue — 50 per cent red creeping fescue and 50 per cent Chewings — a solution for year-round performance and growth in fescue-dominated turf. BAR Fescue has a mean score of 7.86 for greens.
Barenbrug research and development manager Dr David Greenshields says: "The 2016 BAR range is the culmination of decades of plant breeding, research and development — all developed for the UK market."
Give your grass a sporting chance
After the mild and wet winter, several actions will be needed to restore the sward to full health and to ensure it provides the performance required:
1 Carry out a visual assessment, noting the bare, weedy, diseased and yellowing areas — these areas are most likely to be stressed.
2 Dig a small pit to see how deep
the roots are going. Shallow rooting and soil that is dry at a depth of 10cm or more are clear signs of compaction.
3 Analyse the soil structure and test the pH and nutrient content.
4 Decompact and aerate the soil using a slitter or a deep aerating machine, depending on the depth of the pan. Consider top dressing.
5 Address any nutrient deficiencies. Use a pre-seeding fertiliser if you are overseeding.
6 Overseed where necessary.
7 Set a high mowing height.
8 Manage play or footfall accordingly while the grass recovers.