Golf Course Management

MAY 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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2014 This year's seed update in GCM will probably seem rather brief to longtime readers of the magazine. In fact, the number of new varieties is down by more than half — 17 varieties for 2014 compared to 36 in 2013. Not surprisingly, a number of factors have contributed to the decline, and many of the reasons cited by industry sources are very familiar. Most explanations for the decrease in new varieties involve the word "cyclic." As explained by many in the industry, the release of new seed varieties is cyclic, driven by the release of data from the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP). New NTEP trials begin every six years. Bent- grass trials and most fine fescue trials ended last year and new ones are beginning in fall 2014, which means that most creeping bentgrass and fine fescue releases from the recently completed trials have already been published, and it will be a few years before new cultivars are available. Another oft-cited reason for the decline in new varieties is the economic decline that began in 2008 and resulted in the closure of many golf courses and a reduction in new housing and landscaping (new housing starts also tend to be cyclic) — all of which adversely affected the market for turfgrass seed. The economic decline resulted in full warehouses for seed companies, reduced research budgets and a reluctance to introduce new cultivars to a shrinking market. Although seed supplies are currently not strong, companies are still reluctant to take the risk of introducing new cultivars. As Doug Brede, director of research for Jacklin Seed by Simplot, explains, "Right now we are slowly crawling out of a recession which has backed up a lot of new varieties in the storage shed rather than have them released into a market that's not quite healthy enough to receive them." A significant factor in seed production is the number of acres available to seed producers. In recent years, growers have been reluctant to plant grasses rather than more lucrative crops like wheat and corn. Leah Brilman, Ph.D., director of product management and technical services for DLF Pickseed, points out that tall fescue is still not in full production in Oregon because it is competing for acreage with filberts (hazelnuts), wheat and berries. In Oregon's Columbia Basin, 25 to 50 percent of the acreage that was once used to grow turfgrass is no longer available. Weather is obviously another concern for seed companies and farmers. In 2013, Mother Na- ture was particularly hard on seed growers and yields were low. Brilman says that a lack of rain in August followed by excessive rain later in the season along with a cold winter led to the current depleted inventories of fine fescue and perennial ryegrass. In addition, the low perennial ryegrass inventory is expected to be stretched as repairs are made to golf courses and home lawns that suffered winterkill. Overall, turfgrass seed is currently in short supply and prices are somewhat high. On the bright side, however, conditions appear favorable for a good harvest in 2014 if rainfall is adequate. All the companies contacted urge customers to plan ahead and order seed as soon as pos- sible. Brilman says, "If you want seed for August, beginning of September, you should order it now." — Teresa Carson, GCM's senior science editor S e 054-061_May14_SeedUpdate2.indd 55 4/16/14 2:47 PM

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