Proposed New European Amenity Grass Trial System
A proposal is being developed by the European Seed Association to produce a common Turfgrass Catalogue and a 'Pan-European' seed list. Climatic zones rather than political boundaries would separate the list, and each individual country will then extract the appropriate data from the European database.
The current proposal appears to require all varieties to be sown in all climatic zones to qualify for listing, with the UK falling within the Oceanic zone. This would mean that trials data produced in the UK would be merged with data from Europe, effectively creating an average rating for performance which will not be as applicable to UK conditions as the current STRI list.
Grounds managers, greenkeepers and anyone else involved in natural turf management in the UK requires accurate data relevant to the UK. We believe that merging UK data with European data would not assist UK turf professionals in selecting the appropriate grasses for their situation and for this reason we are opposed to this new system.
We have no objection to the production of an EU list, but we would like to see the continued production of the UK Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) Turfgrass Seed booklet, directed by the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB). This is a document which UK and European turf professionals are familiar with using.
The lack of historical information on some varieties would create significant problems if it were to be used alongside UK data in the Turfgrass booklet. We also believe that breeders would not be prepared, or able to afford, to re-enter all varieties into the new system to produce this data. One likely result would be that the number of quality UK varieties would reduce, and the market would be dominated by average performing 'pan-European' varieties.
A Technical Committee within the ESA would be responsibility for modifying protocols and implementing the new system. We are concerned about losing control over the protocol and whether the subsequent quality of the trials would slip and are seeking reassurance on this matter. There are many more observations made at the STRI than are proposed in this new European system, leading to more information for end users. In addition, European trials have different cutting heights than are traditionally used in the UK, meaning that some data will be irrelevant. A further advantage of the STRI trials is that they are independent, while the proposed new system will use some trial sites operated by individual companies.
Any potential changes to the system, protocols or species would have to be put to the Technical Committee for consideration. This Committee would consist principally of representatives from the breeding industry.
European legislation has a tendency to be ratified below the radar, only for the UK to find they have to comply with something they were not involved in during the decision-making process.
British Seed Houses is highlighting this issue as we feel strongly that end-users in our industry should have their say. Pitchcare will be conducting a poll to enable your opinions to be heard but BSH would like as many turf professionals as possible to voice their opinion.
Do you want a combined UK/European Amenity grass trials system?
Do you want to retain a UK Amenity grass trials system using UK-only data?
Please contact Simon Taylor at BSH by email at email@example.com with your views which the company will compile and pass to the ESA. We will then report back to the trade in due course.