Power Equipment Australasia

Aussie Pumps Australian Pump Industries 02 8865 3500 aussiepumps.com.au Distributor enquiries welcome TURF CARE research projects reaching fruition. Most test cultivars are sourced from US research partners such as Texas A&M University. “One of the frustrating things about what we do is this: once you breed a new turfgrass, you can’t know everything about it instantly,” Joe explains. “You’ve got to propagate it, which takes time, and then you’ve got to analyse it and determine things like shade wear and drought tolerance – so we’re just starting to see the fruits of our labours now.” One of LSA’s most interesting research trends has been to concentrate almost exclusively on warm-season varieties for applications in all Australian geographical zones, including Tasmania, with a special emphasis on zoysias and soft-leaf buffalos. The reason for this preference, Joe says, is simple: cool-season grasses are not seasonally sustainable due to their traditionally heavy water consumption. Zoysia grasses, he concedes, have not yet gained great traction in Australia’s southern areas; nevertheless, Joe says international research is delivering zoysia cultivars with applications across the entire Australian continent. “If you take a big turfgrass breeder like the University of Georgia, US, about 60% of their whole program now relates to zoysia grass because the genus is so diverse. Our thinking is that over the next years and decades, zoysia grass will slowly become more prominent, and it will eventually become the dominant species in Australia purely because of the diversity in its breeding.” When Joe speaks of diversity, he refers to differences between separate cultivars relating to growth patterns, appearance, hardiness, water requirements, etc. “They [US research laboratories] are breeding strains that have better cold tolerance, and we’re starting to see them come to Australia… but it’s a slow burn,” Joe notes. “But there is zoysia already getting sold into the southern states of Australia, and with new cultivars coming out that’s only going to increase.” MEETING MARKET DEMANDS According to Joe, the adoption of new varieties like zoysia is a direct response to market demands. Long-term customer requirements still include drought tolerance, notwithstanding recent and ongoing La Niña conditions, as well as good colour throughout winter months. Therefore, turf breeders are trying to produce grasses that enter winter dormancy later and emerge from it earlier. “So, we’re trying our best to minimise that dormancy window.” Similarly, turf producers have their own ‘wishlist’ ambitions for their cultivars, notably improved disease resistance. One of the main concerns facing growers of buffalo grasses, for instance, is the prevalence of ‘buffalo yellows’, which refers to a conglomerate of diseases most likely linked to a sugar cane mosaic virus. Disease tolerance, therefore, is a major preoccupation of turf breeders as well as end users. IS ‘ONE TURF’ STILL POSSIBLE? Most grounds managers have spent their careers looking for single optimal turf solutions for specific applications on their property. However, as climate change leads to more extreme fluctuations in conditions at individual locations, ranging from drought to flooding in the span of just a few years, is ‘one turf’ still a feasible goal for any given property? Or should managers prepare to switch turf varieties every few years to allow for increasingly extreme climatic conditions? ‘I don’t think we’re going down that path just yet!’ Joe says, stressing that it is still sensible to seek the ‘right turf’ for long-term use. “I think the goal here is to find varieties that can handle extremes better than the current ones do. Certainly, I know people are reluctant to change their turf varieties, but with changing conditions we think it’s important to at least consider new varieties, even if they’re not going to be perfect during the height of either La Niña or El Niño events. All imported cultivars must undergo a stringent quarantine process before local analysis can begin in earnest. JULY - AUGUST 2023 | POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA | 11