This close-up view shows RTF growing in a sod field at Todd Valley Farms in Nebraska.
Photo courtesy of Barenbrug USA.

Innovations in seeded turfgrass varieties offer exciting new options for sports field managers to keep their fields in play earlier, later and throughout the season. Turf producers are targeting turf variety development to meet this industry’s unique challenges. They know you need to maintain playable turf cover despite wear from multiple sports and heavy traffic through all kinds of weather, stresses and infestations.

Scotts Professional Seed

“Much of our focus is on selecting varieties for blends to target specific field needs, so we want that complete information,” says Wayne Horman, director for Scotts Professional Seed. For the main, high-profile field, Scotts offers several varieties with brilliant color and strong wear tolerance. He says, “If that field doesn’t look good, it’s hard to get funding for the rest of the program.” For example, for a dual-purpose field in the Midwest, with heavy play spring and fall, and late June the window for seeding, Horman recommends a blend of heat-tolerant bluegrass varieties, Juliet and Avalanche combined with the aggressive Texas X Kentucky hybrid, Thermal Blue. They’ll take off in the heat and, once established, stand up to wear. For practice fields in the Midwest and North, he suggests a mix, with two to four turf-type tall fescues and 10 percent Thermal Blue. He says, “Along with its heat tolerance, its strong rhizome development provides both shear strength and good recovery after use.”

Jacklin Seed by Simplot

Rush is our new bluegrass with annual spring green-up at soil temperatures in the mid to upper 40s, and better color longer into the fall,” says Mark Grundman, senior technical manager for Jacklin Seed by Simplot. “In trials, after cleanup with Tenacity, it’s kept the Poa from invading, with less than 1 percent comeback. We’re using Rush in a blend with Nu Destiny and Solar Eclipse and getting good shade tolerance and resistance to powdery mildew. We’re using a blend of Rush and Liberator, both with great lateral strength, for soccer and football.

“Our NuBlue is performing well at a .5-inch cut from the pros to high school fields.”

Sports field managers for professional teams have been seeking lower height of cut, down to .5 inch, in the perennial ryegrass with a dark color and fine texture to blend with their bluegrasses, notes Grundman. “We’ve found a good fit with Caddieshack II, Monterey, II Accent II and Top Gun II, mixing them with four bluegrasses. If time allows, we use a 50-50 ratio, getting the blues up and established first, then overseeding with the ryes. If they go down together, we use 85 percent blue and 15 percent rye. We do use that 50-50 ratio in our Athletic Pro mix; and 85-15 in our Heisman mix.”

Grundman points to water quality, with salts, calcium buildup and alkalinity issues from well water or effluent sources, noting they’re screening for resistant varieties.

He says, “Bermudas are becoming very adaptable, with our SunDevil II, Jackpot and Hollywood all doing well. We’ll have some new seeded varieties we’ve screened to northern Idaho.”

TMI

With the wear-resistant Bewitched, their 2006 KB introduction, still going strong, Turf Merchants, Inc. (TMI) is focusing on improving drought tolerance, according to President Steve Tubbs. The company is a participant in the AquaWise program of the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA), where digital imaging analysis will quantify drought resistance and other water-saving characteristics of turf varieties.

Pennington Seed

Russ Nicholson, agronomist for Pennington Seed, reports they have a lot in development. They’re preparing for the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) trials and are pleased there will be ancillary testing on wear and drought tolerance and disease resistance as those are “high on the list of attributes of those varieties.”

He recommends overseeding bermudagrasses with T3 intermediate rye for strong performance combined with an easy transition out in the spring and no return the following year. He says, “For bermuda overseeding that needs to hold up through spring sports, go with Applaud 2 perennial ryegrass, as a stand-alone variety, or in Professional Select with Integra 2 and 1G2 (squared), both elite perennial ryegrasses. All three have improved resistance for gray leaf spot, are quick to establish and to green up in the spring.”

Nicholson notes their Princess 77 seeded bermudagrass is a strong performer and is treated with Penkoted Locked-On seed protectant, to protect against Pythium, help stimulate deeper root growth and make the seed less attractive to birds.

Through their breeding programs, seed producers are continually exploring new advancements. This shot shows rhizome development on a new RTF (Rhizomatous Tall Fescue) variety at the six-month point.
Photo courtesy of Barenbrug USA.

DLF International Seeds

For repairs, such as soccer goalmouths, Brad Jeffreys, sales and marketing for DLF International Seeds, recommends Axcella 2, turf-type annual ryegrass, for its ability to germinate at low temperatures and pop up in four days. He says, “It’s a little denser growing and has a finer blade than the first Axcella. In the perennial ryegrasses, Derby Extreme performs well as a stand-alone or in a blend. Rhizing Star is our new, improved turf-type tall fescue, that is dark green, moderately fine textured and shows good drought and wear tolerance and disease resistance. It forms a dense turf and is self-repairing because of its rhizomatous root system. We’ll have a stoloniferous perennial ryegrass, called Stolawn, as a fall 2011 introduction.”

In the seeded bermudagrasses, Jeffreys points to Dune or Mirage 2 for cold tolerance. He says, “Mirage 2 survived the winter in the NTEP’s furthest north trial. We’ll introduce Pyramid 2 in the fall of 2011, which has better cold tolerance than either of them.”

Seed Research of Oregon

Dr. Leah Brilman, director of research and technical services for Seed Research of Oregon, points to the strong performance of the Texas X Kentucky Hybrids, Bandera and Spitfire. She says, “When we’re using these hybrids in overseeding, we’re getting good lateral and horizontal shear strength and more fall and spring activity so the fields don’t shut down. I’d put Spitfire in every sports field mix, with its strong rhizomatous activity for the lateral repair plus its heat and drought tolerance, it can take a beating and recover well.”

In the bluegrasses, both Touché and SR 2284 have shown good shade tolerance and a longer growing season. SR 2100 has a little shorter germination time, so it works well for overseeding. Advancements in turf-type tall fescues in terms of wear tolerance, density and performance at lower heights of cut, make them strong performers on high school fields in combination with 10 to 20 percent bluegrass.

Brilman says, “Three of our perennial ryegrasses with good gray leaf spot resistance are SR 4600, Harrier and Zoom. Both Harrier and Penguin 2 have very good salt tolerance.”

In the seeded bermudas, Yukon and La Prima XD are strong performers. Brilman says, “We have some excellent new bermudas in our breeder fields that are a year to a year and a half away from introduction. With so much in development within all the species, there are some very exciting varieties on the horizon.”

This photo shows RPR growth at 1.5 years.
Photo courtesy of Barenbrug USA

Barenbrug USA

If there’s a need for a quick solution, Christiaan Arends, turf product manager for Barenbrug USA, recommends their SOS (Super Over Seeding). He says, “The turf-type annual ryegrass Panterra and Panterra V gives the fast start of an annual with the appearance of a perennial. In SOS, it’s combined with perennial ryes to match the region and desired transition speed.”

RPR (Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass) was introduced in January. Arends says, “RPR performed well in testing, showing superior wear tolerance with the pseudo-stolons for regeneration that makes it a great fit for all the traffic and heavy use on sports fields.”

Another new development from Barenbrug is RTF (Rhizomatous Tall Fescue). Arends says, “It has the turf-type tall fescue deep rooting for heat and drought resistance with the rhizomatous trait for post-wear repair and filling in bare spots.” Arends reports continuing work in the breeding program with the rhizomatous turf-type tall fescues and the turf-type annual ryes and regenerating ryegrasses, with more advancements to come.

Wesleyan High School, Norcross, Ga., is overseeded with Pennington Seed’s Applaud perennial ryegrass.
Photo courtesy of Pennington Seed.

Noting sports field seeding and overseeding is timed for breaks in field use rather than ideal conditions, Arends says, “Our Yellow Jacket seed coat helps. It uses a cornstarch product that can hold 600 times its own weight in water, and then release that moisture back to the developing seedling as needed when moisture is most critical.”

When it comes to turfgrass types and varieties, these producers encourage sports field managers to review the options. Check the performance in testing and field trials, ask the hard questions and make the best match.

In the Spotlight at the World Cup

Despite the time zone challenges, the decided preference by many for American-style football, and the annoying vuvuzela drone, U.S. English-language World Cup viewership rose 41 percent over numbers four years ago, according to Associated Press reports. The final 1 to 0 victory of Spain over the Netherlands pulled 15,545,000 viewers, topping the 14,863,000 that watched Ghana defeat the U.S. 2 to 1 in overtime play during the second round.

Fans in the stands, coupled with that viewership, magnified worldwide and augmented with televised clips of the action and print media reports put the fields, and the turfgrasses growing on them, in the spotlight.

As part of the Pickseed Group, Seed Research of Oregon (SRO) worked with Pickseed Canada to provide much of the seed that went into the World Cup soccer fields, according to Leah Brilman, director of research and technical services for SRO. She says, “Most of the fields were bermuda or kikuyu bases. They were scalped and then overseeded with our mix of 85 percent perennial ryegrass and 15 percent Kentucky bluegrass.”

The World Cup had selected Barenbrug’s SOS from the beginning for overseeding the 32 Team Base Camps, according to Christiaan Arends, turf product manager for Barenbrug USA, one of the 23 branches of the Royal Barenbrug Group. “So the players, coaches and officials knew how it played,” he says. “When several of the fields in South Africa, including those in Durban and Port Elizabeth, were in poor condition, SOS was flown in and overseeded at those sites, producing the desired results for the remaining games.”

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management.