Quality is Everything says Simon Taylor

17 April 2019
  • Whastsapp

Quality is Everything, by Simon Taylor, ICL, Product & Business Development Manager Grass Seeds

Within our industry ICL are widely known for being fertiliser and nutrition specialists. However, Course Managers and greenkeepers are generally less aware of our expertise in seed selection. At ICL we know that the quality of the turf grasses is one of the fundamental building blocks for producing high quality sports surfaces. For the last 10 years we have been focussing our efforts on developing a comprehensive and high quality turfgrass seed portfolio.

I have 25 years’ experience in the seed sector and I know that it takes time to build a quality seed portfolio – hard work, determination and strategic partnerships. I must take a proactive approach to the development of our seed range and we need to look years ahead to create quality varieties that will be able to satisfy future demands. To this end we work with private breeders such as Den Haan Zaden in the Nederlands and Mountain View in the US, to bring to the table a host of new varieties across all the major species. On his own, Pieter Den Haan annually collects thousands of individual plants to further diversify the genetic background of his turf breeding programme. The aim of our breeders is to constantly develop new cultivars that will accommodate a wider range of environmental conditions and be more adaptable across a range of management regimes.
A great help when evaluating the choice of cultivars or the quality of blends are the independent national turf trials. We place our new varieties into the various testing programmes when we feel we have something worth pursuing. The American National Turf Evaluation Programme (NTEP) is an extremely comprehensive system that collects data across the majority of States but it is very much based on evaluation of summer sports. For Southern Europe, those turfgrass rankings fit perfectly into sports stadia and golf course applications. Of course, when it come to the cooler northern regions with lower light intensities, then the selection criteria’s need to be completely different especially for turf under intensive wear. Most countries have their own turf grass trials programmes and can be used as a reference to turf performance, although there is still no substitute for seeing what works best in your situation. I will use the country testing results myself when sourcing quality varieties on the world wholesale markets.
‘Simon assessing trial plots at Den Haan.’ 
From a UK and Ireland perspective, our temperate climate is undoubtedly becoming more challenging and we are seeing more extremes of weather. This was evident last summer when many golf fairways in southern areas were severely stressed by the effects of the high temperatures and prolonged drought conditions. The grass breeding and selection process focusses on developing characteristics such as drought tolerance for water conservation and also stress tolerance/disease prevention to make them better suited to survive such extreme conditions. We work with plant breeders to constantly make improvements in the new cultivars to fit the requirements of the future.

The turfgrasses within the ICL portfolio take positive characteristics from both US and EU genetic sources. With this strategy we aim to create seed blends with a broad-spectrum of attributes for coping with the diversity of conditions encountered across the UK and Ireland. We are always trying to build a robust portfolio which turf managers can be confident that the blends and individual cultivars are able to cope with all that is being thrown at them. I formulate our blends to marry up different varieties that will complement each other to create consistently highly performing turf.

The ICL cultivar range is now probably the most diverse in the industry, giving turf managers the best and most exclusive cultivars. Below are just some of the cultivars featuring in our portfolio:

Riptide creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera) from ICL’s ProSelect seed range ranks No.1 for mean score in the UK’s STRI 2019 “New Cultivar” golf greens listings. Additionally, Riptide was tested in the Scandinavian Scangreen trials for the crucial performance Indicators of density, disease-resistance and winter hardiness and it exceeded expectations in all areas.

Heritage browntop bent (Agrostis capillaris) is now a listed variety in the UK and Nordics. It is ideal for the over-seeding of golf and bowling greens or combined as part of a blend for fairways. Its main characteristics are excellent shoot density and visual merit aided by good resistance to Microdochium patch disease. Heritage also maintains good colour in the winter and a vibrant green in the summer.

Torsion perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) with turf repairing tillers (TRT) offers outstanding turf quality. The mid to dark green in colour, excellent diseases tolerance,and a compact lateral spreading growth habit with fine leaves makes Torsion a worthy consideration by any turf professional. Torsion now features as a component of “Proselect Sport” ideal for tee renovations.

So, I hope you can see that we are working hard to create and access the best grasses for you to use. We know how important quality grass seed is to you and that we need to be the best. The grass types on our golf courses have always been important but with extremes of weather, product revocations and increasing levels of expectations they are more important than ever and this will only intensify. The reason we form partnerships with top breeders, blenders and suppliers is because in this market, quality is everything.