Grass collection, irriplaceable part of local turf industry

17 Apr, 2017 12:42 PM
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Mr Roche said the collection "if lost would never be seen in Australia again".

ONE of the most important assets of the Australian turfgrass industry -- the Australian Warm-Season Turf Genetic Resource Centre -- is managed by Queensland-based Matt Roche and his business Australian Sports Turf Consultants (ASTC).

The former DPI collection was first setup in 2000 at the Redlands Research Station at Cleveland (30km from Brisbane) when the Queensland Turf Research program was initiated. The collection was largely funded by Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and supported in-kind by industry from 2000 to 2009.

Initially the collection comprised a 'living library' of overseas and Australian turfgrass selections made up of 138 different warm-season turf cultivars.

Today the collection houses some 160 varieties of turfgrasses comprising of 15 genus and 27 species.

Between 2009 and 2012 Turfgrass Levy funds (HAL project TU09002) were made available along with money from DPI to continue to maintain the in-ground and tub collections at Redlands.

In 2011 an application was submitted to HAL by Mr Roche while still at DPI seeking funding to continue with the maintenance and upkeep of the collection to start in 2012. However following the termination of the DPI Turf Program the application failed.

Mr Roche said that the cessation of the DPI turf research program in 2012 brought concerns from the PBR Office IP Australia as to what may happen with the collection.

He said that after lengthly discussions with DPI an agreement was made in August 2015 for the release of the collection to ASTC.

Mr Roche said individual stolons were collected in August 2015 from Redlands and potted on into single 100mm pots.

In January 2016 the in ground turf plots at Redlands were sprayed with Roundup by DPI to preserve the security of the collection which operates as a Genetic Resource Centre for both Australian and international turfgrasses.

Mr Roche said ASTC had to obtain written permission from each of the PBR title holders that had material within the collection for it to be moved from Redlands to the new location under the control of ASTC.

A total of 22 title holders had to be were contacted from either overseas or Australia and 13 of the 22 approved to relocate the material while nine either terminated their PBR or chose to relocate their material.

New collection location

From August 2015 a single collection was maintained in 100mm pots containing some 200 turfgrasses at Mr Roche's home.

Mr Roche said that when the family moved house on Christmas eve 2015 the collection also moved.

In January 2016 he multiplied the collection, having two lots of 100mm pots of 200 turfgrass in two different areas of the new house.

The replicates were watered every other day and cut weekly with scissors to prevent contamination.

Seeking a more permanent base for the collection, Mr Roche approached Bob Cray, The Bottom Line Turf Supplies, to set up the collection on its Stockliegh property.

Gravel was provided by River Sands as was the growing medium in support of the collection.

Twenty-two new benches at a cost of $10,000 had to be constructed to store the tubs. By September 2016 all the tubs and irrigation had been set up at the Stockleigh farm.

Planting of the first of the two replicates of the two reps began in February 2017.

Globe also offered to provide fertiliser product to assist with the establishment of the material.

Mr Roche said mowing will be undertaken with a variable speed angle grinder which was fitted with specially made mower blade which is housed by a metal dust shroud. Sitting within the perimeter of the shroud is modified PVC cut to length to provide varied cut heights for the different turf varieties. Connected to the shroud is a wet dry vaccum which extracts all the clippings when mown (cut). The action was taken to improve maintenance and prevent cross contamination.

Future of the collection

Mr Roche said the collection "if lost would never be seen in Australia again".

He said the collection was used for R&D, trials and education -- particularly of the new generation of apprentices that "had little idea about turfgrass".

Recently STRI Australia obtained plant material from the collection to undertake a trial for the All England Club Wimbledon under a strict Material Transfer Agreement between the two organisations.

The material was also being used for Plant Breeder's Rights trials and turf trials being conducted by ASTC.

The use of material has strict guidelines imposed by ASTC and Material Transfer Agreements are in place to protect the grasses owners intellectual property.

Industry groups were interested in touring the collection.

TurfFinder

He said an additional feature of the collection was the Quick Reference (QR) code attached to each turf variety label.

By downloading the QR code scanner visitors could scan the QR code that would provide the the turf variety's descriptor written on www.TurfFinder.com.

Mr Roche said turfgrass was a passion, and while testing at times, he was committed to preserving the collection for the future use by the industry.

Published in TurfCraft International, March/April 2017.

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