Collier Turf Care conference helps turf managers keep pace
By Becky Baldry
Given the rapid rate of change in the sphere of turf science, it can be difficult for working grounds professionals to keep informed about the latest developments. But Collier Turf Care, a leading supplier of turf maintenance materials and equipment throughout the South-East of England and East Anglia, is offering a solution with its regular Turf Talk Conferences, the second of which took place at the Imperial War Museum, in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, on 10 December.
The event, which was attended by nearly 100 greenkeepers and ground care professionals, featured presentations given by experts from Scotts UK Professional, manufacturers of specialist turf fertilisers and chemicals, and Barenbrug UK, the breeders of amenity turf seed.
Simon Barnaby, Technical Manager with Scotts UK Professional, gave a detailed insight into the science of turfcare fertiliser development, and how to obtain the best results from modern fertiliser treatments. He explained that not all fertilizers were the same - even those having the same analysis and same mode of action could be different, especially in the length of release at different temperatures. The most important thing that a turf manager should do is to ask for full details about the product from the manufacturer.
Determining the amount of fertiliser to be applied required several factors to be considered, he said. Some grass species like perennial ryegrass, needed more nutrients than, say, fescues, while free-draining sandy rootzones would be more prone to leaching and require more frequent and judicious applications. Simon Barnaby said that soil analysis was an essential starting point from which to establish a fertilisation regime.
He described the differences in the various kinds of fertiliser available. Conventional 'NPK' products, like Scotts' Greenmaster range, gave a quick response and performed well in cool conditions. Slow-release compounds, like Scotts' Sierraform products, gave out nitrogen steadily, avoiding sudden flushes of growth, while controlled-release fertilisers, such as the Sierrablen compounds, went a stage further by releasing nitrogen only in conditions of optimum moisture and temperature.
He described the close links that a company such as Scotts had to maintain with sources of technology like universities and outside research establishments in order to benefit from the latest developments.
Specialists from Barenbrug concentrated on how new grass varieties were developed to withstand the pressures placed on turf under demanding sports and amenity use. Gerard van't Klooster, European Product Development Manager for the company, based in Holland, described how seed breeders had to be crystal ball-gazers, trying to anticipate future needs in terms of usage levels, environmental considerations and possible legislation. He said that it typically took 15 years to develop a new variety from initial cross-breeding to commercial production, so future trends had to be predicted accurately.
Gerard van't Klooster explained that breeders' chief concerns in recent years had included the need to develop grass varieties that could withstand the challenges imposed by modern sports usage, such as heavy wear, tolerance of shade and drought, and the ability to thrive under maintenance regimes stipulating less use of fertilisers and irrigation.
Jayne Leyland (3rd from Right), Senior Area Manager for Barenbrug UK, described some of the latest varieties that were designed to meet these challenges. The company's Barbizon tall fescue showed tolerance of water logging and drought, and could flourish in conditions of shade and salinity. Its wear tolerance, she said, was similar to that of perennial ryegrasses, making it suitable for a broad range of sports and amenity applications.
Jayne Leyland said that Barkoel crested hairgrass had been bred for its extreme drought tolerance and low maintenance characteristics, resulting in a reduced mowing frequency by up to 40%. It tolerates close mowing down to 5mm, and creates little thatch. Barenbrug has recently launched its Bar 40 mixture, comprising Barkoel and (Barcrown) a slender creeping red fescue, for low-maintenance golf and bowling greens, tees, fairways and semi-roughs.
She explained that Barcampsia tufted hairgrass had been bred for both shade and wear tolerance. Very fine-leaved, and with high shoot density, it could flourish in wet, acid and cool, humid conditions on most soil types. Barenbrug had also developed a
Mark Bowley (Left), Sales Director of Collier Turf Care, described Turf Talk 2 as "a tremendous success. Once again, we drew a huge audience and it proves how receptive turf professionals are to new ideas and concepts."
"The enthusiastic response to this event, and to the first Turf Talk conference held at Ipswich Town Football Club last December, has led us to devise more specialist seminars that will be held throughout 2004, culminating in another full-scale Turf Talk event to round off the year."