0 Resistant cultivars are worth their salt

Salt tolerance image 1 A research and breeding programme as diverse as that of DLF Trifolium ensures that the world's largest grass grower and producer creates a steady crop of leading edge cultivars designed to thrive in challenging environments.

Developing the quality and reliability of its seed varieties is always at the forefront of DLF's grass breeding, as are innovations in growing methods and generating new varieties that can meet the changing pressures and demands that modern sport, leisure and the urban realm impose on amenity and fine turf.

Coastal sportsgrounds and links golf courses historically have had to contend with issues that other inland locations are spared, and choosing the right seed mixture to apply in such settings is seldom straightforward.

Salt dominates these environments but deciding which cultivars deal best with its potentially damaging effects has for long been a game of trial and error for UK turfcare professionals.

Worldwide, the issue is a growing one, as the acreage unsuitable for crop production increases. Irrigation water, contaminated with salt by desalination, is largely responsible for raising soil salt levels - creating a hostile environment for crops - while intensively fertilised turf, such as links golf courses, as well as highway verges, are becoming problem zones.

Salt tolerance image 2The impact of salt is more widely reported in the UK now and is causing major concern for those charged with the task of establishing and growing turfgrasses.

How to confront the issue of contaminated irrigation water is still to be resolved but thankfully the turfcare professional's job of selecting seed to cope with high salinity soil is set to ease with the release of DLF's latest high-salt tolerant cultivars.

The grass breeder's test laboratories have identified varieties that display above-average performance, compared to standard varieties, when faced with high salinity.

DLF recognised four characteristics crucial to combating the effects of salt: good establishment rate; improved survival and growth rate; good wear resistance and drought tolerance.

Testing was conducted across the spectrum of grass species, including perennial ryegrass, red fescues, chewings fescues, strong creeping and hard and sheep's fescues.

Perennial ryegrass faired best - the highest number of cultivars exhibiting a 'very high' salt tolerance rating. Those successes were reinforced in the independent trials undertaken by the Sports Turf Research Institute for the British Society of Plant Breeders' (BSPB) Turfgrass Seed buyer's guide.
In perennial ryegrass close mown trials, DLF's new high salt tolerance Dickens 1 cultivar came top of rankings covering a variety of test criteria.
Also, for cultivars in the 22mm mown category, another high salt tolerance cultivar - Columbine - ranked third.

DLF cultivars performed just as well elsewhere, with Brahms ranked second in new cultivars for chewings 10-15mm trials, and Quatro topping the leaderboard for the sheep's fescue 10-15mm trials - a cultivar that also displayed the highest salt tolerance in the grass breeder's own trials.
The STRI work also showed that many of DLF's new high salt tolerance cultivars performed creditably well on other criteria, such as rust and wear resistance and sward density, especially among perennial varieties.

That finding tells turfcare professionals that a switch in their choice of cultivar to limit salt impact would not result a loss of turf quality overall. Rather the opposite in fact, claims DLF. Trialling these new cultivars in the field could reap lasting rewards and mark a step forward for groundsmen who have long sought a solution to the perils of salty conditions. The new cultivars will be used in creating a range of new salt tolerant mixtures within both the Masterline and Johnsons sport seed brands.

You could say that DLF is helping Britain's `Salts of the earth` deflect the debilitating effects on turfgrass of the salt of the earth.

www.dlf.co.uk

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