Grow grass for the times

Plant a modern plant variety and apply some basic rules of soil and water management and you will be rewarded with a greener, hardier, lawn. This is the advice of Phil Toy, a graduate in agriculture and a turf management specialist with more than 30 years of experience.

“Times have changed, with water restrictions and concerns over climate change causing many householders to neglect their lawns and greenkeepers to scale down their expectations of a quality turf surface,” he said.

“My advice is to not give up. Certainly, times have changed but our response can be to keep up with the times.
“For example, plant breeders have continued to develop improved plant species for drought and salt tolerance. The leader among these, a result of Australian research and development, is Velvetene™.

“An approved drought-tolerant variety under water restrictions, Velvetene is a rich green and has a tightly-knitted texture which is hardy and soft to walk on. It contrasts with older turf varieties which under the same conditions will lose colour and condition.

“The richness and evenness of colour impresses, even in the toughest of environments exacerbated by poor water quality, limited opportunities to irrigate and extreme heat.

“It is from the very breeding of this variety that we get greater greenness and toughness from every drop of water and each dollar invested.

“Apart from aesthetics and economics, however, there are positive environmental consequences. A drought tolerant root system with built-in water use efficiency is coupled with a tight leaf formation which allows less evaporation.

Velvetene™ has proven in DPI trials to be the most salt tolerant of all the turf species, proving to be substantially more tolerant than Buffalo , Kikuyu or Couch. This is extremely important as alternative water sources are now being explored for irrigating public open space or the domestic lawn. If the water source is a little salty then the grass of choice is definitely Velvetene™.

The shade tolerance of Velvetene™ is outstanding. Where light quality is not altered but only light intensity is reduced ( for example, prolonged cloudy or rainy weather, dappled shade or smoggy or dust laden environments), Velvetene™ is superior because it takes better advantage of ultraviolet wave lengths and deflected and reflected light to maintain growth and development, exhibiting higher photosynthesis efficiency.

Velvetene™ has a fine to very fine leaf texture with very short internodes The leaves are soft to touch and they have a waxy coating giving the appearance of a glistening, shiny lustre. The short internode length means Velvetene™ illustrates a low level of invasiveness, certainly significantly lower invasiveness than Buffalo, Kikuyu and Couch grass.

“We can even make a comparison with artificial ‘lawns’ which are not environmentally friendly as they inhibit biodiversity, consume energy in their manufacture, and do not take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen like living plants.” In fact they are greenhouse gas contributors in their manufacture. They are also hot to stand on in warm weather. After the relative short life the artificial lawn becomes another landfill problem.

In addition to selecting Velvetene, Phil Toy believes home gardeners, parks maintenance personnel and sports turf managers, can save water and achieve better results by giving attention to soil condition.

“Treatments which improve the structure and water-holding capacity of soil and make the environment more amenable for the tiny root hairs to extract moisture from around soil particles, will pay dividends,” he said. “The capacity for healthy root function can be affected by salinity, sodicity, the pH balance and other factors. A soil analysis and a plan for improving the subsoil environment will lead to major savings and a better turf. Importantly, when soil health management combines with a modern plant variety the ability to withstand stress will escalate.

“One of the lowest costs is the instant turf itself. Using yesterday’s species and cutting corners will inevitably lead to higher maintenance costs and often greater water inputs to try to improve the situation. It is a pity to see this happen when modern tools are available for us to still have a great home lawn or recreational turf in difficult times and among the most powerful of these tools is Velvetene.”