The secret of a success

Dave Saltmanin Industry News

In the heart of the Danish countryside, surrounded by 72 hectares of test fields, the main research and development site of DLF Trifolium resides. The history of this company goes back over 125 years ago to 1872 when it was established as a seed grower and producer. Nowadays the DLF group is a co-operative, owned by around 5400 individual seed growers.

GreenhousesOver the years, seed companies have merged to continue the DLF growth in the market place. Cebeco seeds, now known as InnoSeeds is an example of this.

It is a little known fact that DLF Trifolium is the World's No1 seed producer, with approximately 50% of the European market and 22% globally of all cool season grasses supplied. 95% of the seed grown in Denmark is exported each year, this equates to around half of the 200,000 tons of grass seed supplied in the European market.

The company has an annual turnover of around 270 million euros and employs approximately 850 people worldwide.Separating seeds

Denmark lends itself to good seed production. Although the west of the country has good sandy soils, the land would require a lot of irrigation, so much of the seed is grown and harvested on the Eastern side, where clay/loam soils are prevalent.

As Denmark is surrounded mostly by sea, the climate is fairly mild, not dissimilar to the UK and provides near perfect conditions on the flat pastures for grass production.

Primarily, DLF Trifolium produce grass seed, although clover is also developed and grown for export. The grass falls into three categories, forage, professional and hobby market. In the UK, approximately 70% of the seed supplied into the professional sports turf market is grown and developed by DLF.

The UK market is serviced from Thorn Farm, Inkberrow, positioned perfectly to supply nearly half of all the grass seed on the British Isles. From Inkberrow around 13,000 tons of grass seed is sold each year. The UK arm of DLF turns over around £25 million pounds a year and employs 120 staff.

With the many acquisitions made over the years, it's no surprise that the research and development of new grass cultivars keeps DLF at or near the top of the STRI rankings. The laboratories at the company's breeding station 'Boelshøj' have developed into one of Europe's most spectacular grass breeding units.

With so much experience within plant breeding the company has given its name to some of the very best grass and clover varieties on the market.

Laboratory growth conditionsBefore seeds of a newly developed variety can be marketed, the law requires (in most countries) inclusion of the variety on the list of approved varieties, and the authorities only approve varieties which pass both the DUS and VALUE tests.

In the value test, the new varieties are sown in fields together with varieties that are already on the list. Qualities and yields (for forage grass and clover) are compared over a period of 2-4 years, during which time the candidates have to demonstrate that they are better than existing varieties.

The candidates also undergo a DUS test. DUS stands for Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability. Comparisons of the size and colour of various plant parts ensure that the candidates can be separated from existing varieties. The properties that are investigated are governed by the international UPOV agreement.Initial germination

A national listing of varieties is normally valid for 10 years and it can be extended if the variety possesses special qualities or a very high turnover. When a variety has achieved list status in one EU country, it can be transferred to a common EU list of varieties, and in principle thus be sold throughout the EU.

Therefore DLF bio-technicians continue to work hard to develop new varieties within an international network of breeding stations and research sites. This ensures that new varieties are tested under different climatic conditions and forms of use, and are thus optimally adapted to market requirements.

The basis for the research and development work is at breeding stations in Denmark, France, Holland, the Czech Republic and the USA. (DLF also work closely with other breeding stations and a number of external research stations which are strategically located so that they are able to cover all of the countries and climatic regions on which DLF focus their sales). Recently DLF moved into Kentucky, USA and established a trial site in the area known as "the inner bluegrass" - an area with rolling green hillsides and the home of some of the finest thoroughbred horse farms in the country.

The temperate climate with rainfalls evenly distributed over the year, together with fertile soils, keeps the grass green all year round. The site is impacted by the extreme heat and humidity from the south and frigid cold from the north.

Under these conditions the breeding lines of fodder and amenity grasses demonstrate their yield potential as well as their tolerance to heat and drought.

The exact same breeding lines are tested under different managements and climatic conditions on other trial sites, in France, Holland, the Czech Republic, Poland, China, UK and Denmark. When combining all this data, the potential of new variety candidates can be found.

Growth tubesThis year more than 1300 plots of cocksfoot, ryegrass and tall fescue, and over 4000 amenity plots of fescue, ryegrass and bluegrass were established. The first scores have been taken, and as next spring approaches, staff will be harvesting and measuring the yields of these trials.

The company has been working with biotechnology in its research and development since the beginning of the 1990s, both in the form of traditional plant breeding and in the development of the next generation high-value clover and grass varieties.

A broad technological platform has been built up within grass biotechnology, and thus a detailed knowledge and database of the genes of quality-related properties in grasses has been stored.

This database is used to produce tailor-made grass varieties with improved characteristics, either via gene technology or by utilising the genetic information in their advanced marker-based breeding programmes.

In 1998, DLF entered into a cooperation consortium with the Risø National Laboratory within the field of grass biotechnology, and over the years have built up a comprehensive network of partners and participated in a number of Danish and European research programmes.

These strategies include the development of technologies for biological containment to minimise the spread of active genes in nature. DLF recognise the concerns surrounding the use of plant biotechnology, namely that these genetically engineered plants will interbreed with conventional plants.

The requirements for the seed of the future are substantial, better able to survive extreme climatic conditions and more resistant to diseases. The market also demands continuing improvements in yield and quality while smaller and smaller quantities of nutrients will be sanctioned for use in the future.

These challenges stimulate DLF's endeavours to develop new high-value varieties, which also meet the demands of the future for environmental and economic sustainability.

Launched at BTME is a real mixture revolution in the Johnson's range. DLF Trifolium has radically re-formulated several of the blends. These new blends have been designed for the renovation of quality sports turf, so the key motivators when re-designing the blends are speed of establishment, performance and visual quality.

The new mixtures make the most of the significant improvements made in turf grass breeding over the last 5 years. In addition the exceptional Turfguard seed coating is applied to all Johnson's mixtures.

The new mixes include a new J4, an updated all fescue mixture specifically designed for golf course fairways. DLF have taken advantage of the faster establishment of the new strong creeping red fescue Almerita and the unique sheep's fescue Quatro. The new mixture has improved colour and reduced requirements for fertiliser and water and will be very effective for links courses or clubs looking to follow a more sustainable management programme.

Other mixes that have been improved are J2, TEEMASTER and PITCHMASTER (formerly Wembley way).

DLF 'Trip to Denmark' Competition

Trial PlotsGreenkeepers and Groundsmen whio visited BTME 2007 had an opportunity to win a trip to Denmark in 2007. The competition, run in conjunction with Pitchcare, was open to all visitors coming on to the DLF Trifolium/Johnsons Sport & Amenity stand. Now there are just a few days left to enter the competition.

Two successful entrants will win the opportunity of an 'all costs paid for' trip to the largest breeding facilities in the world at DLF Trifolium A/S, Head Office and breeding station. This is where new varieties are being developed for changes in climatic conditions, future restrictions on inputs and demanding playing circumstances. Other places of interest included on the trip will be a premier football stadium and a leading golf club.

There are some excellent runners up prizes as well so to enter the competition simply answer the following five questions .

Hint: Reading 'A secret of a success' article above will help your research!

Open up the following e-mail and answer the questions below:

1) How many seed growers form the DLF Group?

2) DLF Trifolium is the World's No1 seed producer?

a) True b) False

3) How many tons of seed are sold each year from DLF's Inkberrow HQ?

4) Which new strong creeping red fescue has been introduced into the J4 mix for this season?

5) What percentage of Agrostis Tenuis makes up the new J2 Greens


Please send the answers, including your contact details to:

Closing date is Midnight, Sunday 4th February 2007.

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