2018 is officially here, and we went straight to the commercial experts to get the scoop on sports turf trends, future product innovations and new technologies coming to the industry. Read on for insights from the experts at Syngenta, John Deere, Redexim, Sod Solutions and Natural Grass Advisory Group.

Q: Heading into 2018 and beyond, what types of product innovation (specific to your sector, product and/or company) do you foresee for the sports turf market?

“It’s my belief that we have to develop new products that will assist a professional turf manager to be more productive without increasing costs. Adding value to products by designing tools that have multipurpose use will assist users with costs savings both long term and short.”

Paul Hollis | Executive Vice President/Redexim North America

“As sports turf managers continue to see increased disease and insect pressure on athletic fields, it’s going to be important to choose products that work stronger and last longer to maximize efficacy and application timing. Products like Acelepryn insecticide, which provides season-long grub and turf caterpillar control with one early application, can help protect fields all season long. We know that reducing the number of applications needed can really help sports turf managers whose fields are in constant use. Since the sports turf industry as a whole has fewer products labeled than some other markets, sports turf managers will have to continue to leverage their resources to stay up to date on the latest chemistries. By working with their sales representative or territory manager, they can build an agronomic program that fits their individual needs while providing the best playing conditions and aesthetics possible. This collaboration can really help sports turf managers integrate newer chemistries like Velista fungicide, which is a recent SDHI that became available to the sports turf market, and stay ahead of the game as new modes of action or more targeted products are introduced in the future.”

Matt Giese | Technical Manager/Syngenta

“The sky is the limit with grass genetics. We currently have several great grass varieties on the market. This is allowing breeders to look at the performance of those grasses to develop even better grass varieties for the future. It’s important to stay up to date with what is going on in the research trials for up-and-coming varieties. Make sure to attend research field days. Also, stay up to date with what joint turfgrass programs are currently underway.”

Julie Adamski | Director of Professional Relations & Product Development/Sod Solution

“At John Deere, we see people moving towards reel mowers because the quality of fields is becoming more important to the sports turf market. Reel mowers deliver a superior quality of cut and are also able to provide the aesthetics that many sports turf customers are now looking for. This transition from rotary mowers to reel mowers, whether new or used, is the biggest product innovation we anticipate for sports turf in 2018.”

Ren Wilkes | Tactical Marketing Manager; Brad Aldridge | Product Manager; Tracy Lanier | Product Manager/ John Deere

“We are confident that the next wave of innovation to impact sports turf will revolve around data and analytics. Data and analytics simplify the challenge of producing consistent, high-quality surfaces to make our lives easier. At the same time, the objective and concrete information produced will increase respect and appreciation for the work done by sports turf managers. Data devices such as GPS trackers, heart rate monitors and accelerometers have transformed the work done by fitness coaches and athletic trainers. The analysis and utilization of that information for player load and fatigue management, player safety and simple competitive advantage has created the mammoth industry of sports science, which now needs information about/from the surface athletes are playing on. Equally, in agriculture, where turfgrass management/sports turf management has its roots, the use of data andanalytics is called precision agriculture. A recent report by Grand View Research lays out how precision ag., currently a $3.08-billion industry, is expected to grow to nearly $11 billion by 2025. GPS guidance, variable rate application and plant activity tracking are all technologies well established in precision ag. — all dramatically impactful on the turfgrass management industry. Thus, you see why our confidence is high that the next innovations in 2018 and beyond will revolve around the use of data and analytics.”

Jerad Minnick | Lead Advisor/Natural Grass Advisory Group

Read More: We Asked, You Answered: 2018 Sports Turf Management Trends


Q: What’s one specific issue, or topic, you see as a growing challenge for sports turf managers in 2018 and beyond?

“Labor, without a question. Finding qualified workers who have the skills and mindset to do what’s needed to maintain quality turfgrass is becoming a bigger issue all the time. I talk to turf managers all the time who can’t find enough good workers, which creates added stress on themselves and their staff. Within the next decade or two, we are going to have a real crisis unless things change.”

Paul Hollis | Executive Vice President/Redexim North America

“A challenge that we’ve seen in recent years and will likely continue to see next year has been weather extremes, including roller coaster-temperatures that occur during the growing season. With these changing patterns, it becomes more challenging to correctly time preventive applications for turfgrass pests when consecutive days of a threshold temperature is the trigger for initiating sprays. The keys to staying ahead of these changing patterns are having the right strategy and tools. That’s why monitoring soil temperature and anticipating changes in weather patterns — as part of their proactive agronomic planning — can make a big difference. Tools like the new GreenCast Turf app can help with streamlining tank mixing and record keeping, which improves accuracy and saves time. Using products that have season-long control to reduce the number of applications can help sports turf managers better plan around field activity and reduce labor costs.”

Matt Giese | Technical Manager/Syngenta

“There will always be new innovation coming onto the market, whether it’s maintenance techniques, grass genetics, technology or equipment. We need to step out of our comfort zones to take a chance on these pieces of innovation that could, or will, better our industry. We all need to communicate about what’s going on in the industry to improve as a whole.”

Julie Adamski | Director of Professional Relations & Product Development/Sod Solutions

“Given the shift from rotary mowers to reel mowers, one of the biggest challenges we anticipate for sports turf managers in 2018 and beyond is learning how to service this new type of technology. Proper bedknife and reel maintenance through grinding, backlapping and setup is critical to maintaining a premium quality of cut throughout the season. Whether the customer conducts the maintenance on their own, or leverages their dealership for service, maintaining the cutting units is important to achieving the appearance and quality that you want.Additionally, we’re seeing a high demand from the public for perfect playing fields year-round. Maintaining this new reel mower equipment in the proper way will be crucial to overcome this challenge.”

Ren Wilkes | Tactical Marketing Manager; Brad Aldridge | Product Manager; Tracy Lanier | Product Manager/ John Deere

“The challenge sports turf managers will face with data and analytics in the industry is that the expectation on us all to produce high and consistent quality athletic fields, all the time, will increase. Thankfully though, the innovations our industry has been blessed with during the last five to 10 years all yield even more impactful when combined with data and analytics. For example, improved grass varieties are more durable, but also respond and regenerate quickly from stress that’s detected by plant activity sensors. Light sensors guide the use of grow lights to provide the exact amount of light required for full photosynthesis during short days, or even in full shade. Measuring shock absorbed by the surface, energy restitution out of the surface and vertical deformation of the top of a surface guide the type and depth of aeration needed for player impact and plant health. Data and analytics guide the use of nearly all great new innovations we have access to, and also justify the adoption and purchase of these innovations. Inferior technologies and expired thinking will become obsolete and sports turf industry will become just as popular as sports science and precision agriculture.” More information can be found at NaturalGrass.org

Jerad Minnick | Lead Advisor/Natural Grass Advisory Group


Q: What are some new or recent product offerings/technologies your company has for the sports turf market?

“In 2017, we purchased Blec Turf Equipment from the UK, which offers a wide range of machinery, including both walk behind, and tractor mounted equipment, for sports fields, municipalities, sod growers, landscape maintenance contractors, etc.” More information can be found at Redexim.com

Paul Hollis | Executive Vice President/Redexim North America

“Syngenta offers an extensive portfolio of products, including Primo Maxx plant growth regulator and Daconil Action fungicide, that can be used together to help turf become fit before the season, provide exceptional turf quality for athletes and recover from stress. It’s our hope that by having all of these tools in one place, we can help sports turf managers feel confident about facing any challenge they come across in 2018 and beyond.” More information can be found at GreenCastOnline.com

Matt Giese | Technical Manager/Syngenta

“Sod Solutions currently has three products on the market that are our newest varieties for sports turf. HGT Kentucky bluegrass was developed specifically to withstand disease, pests and traffic. Northbridge bermudagrass and Latitude 36 bermudagrass are known for their exceptional cold tolerance. Northbridge is excellent for its traffic recovery and Latitude 36 is top-rated for wear resistance. Sod Solutions is also working with, or has programs with, numerous universities around the country to develop new grasses for the market.” More information can be found at SodSolutions.com

Julie Adamski | Director of Professional Relations & Product Development/Sod Solutions

“John Deere is always innovating within the marketplace and always looking to expand our product offerings, providing the best service for our customers to help them maintain their fields. Keys in the sports turf industry include providing the necessary basic features at an affordable price point, as well as continuing the emphasis on making maintenance easy. You can expect some exciting new technology coming early in 2018.” More information can be found at Deere.com.

Ren Wilkes | Tactical Marketing Manager; Brad Aldridge | Product Manager; Tracy Lanier | Product Manager/ John Deere