NEW Frontier, a contemporary variety of buffalo grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), will be commercially available within Australia from early next year.
The new variety has Plant Breeder's Rights (PBR) protection as TBLL * and is trademarked as New Frontier.
New Frontier was selected by Robert Cray in 2002 as a chance seedling or mutant plant growing on hard shale among "common" green couch (Cynodon dactylon) and "common" blue couch (Digitaria didactyla) within a hinterland property in South East Queensland (Roche, 2013).
The original selection was made on the basis that the genotype was deep green in colour, had prostrate growth and was well-adapted to the shade. It was so well adapted to shade that it was found to grow almost as well under shade conditions as it did in full sun.
Initial observations from within the PBR study initiated by Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), the former Redlands Research Station, and completed by Australian Sports Turf Consultants (ASTC) along with DNA testing by The University of Queensland (UQ) and the subsequent establishment of plots at turf farms along the eastern coastline of Australia since 2013 all have shown support for the earlier observations.
Following subsequent multiplication and further observations, New Frontier had shown it was a stable turf type variety with deep green colour and uniform appearance.
Some of the key benefits of growing and using New Frontier were that it had proven to require less mowing, less fertiliser and less water compared to other commercial buffalo varieties on the market, Mr Cray said.
In addition to the turf farms located within South East Queensland, farms within New South Wales and Victoria have also recently established observational plots of the new variety of buffalo grass.
"This has provided an excellent opportunity for interested parties to compare New Frontier in different environments under various management regimes," Mr Cray said.
"We have taken the time to test and research this variety before bringing it to market.
"Thanks to the efforts of the DEEDI, Redlands Research Station and Matt Roche with Australian Sports Turf Consultants (ASTC), we were able to learn that the variety stacked up favourably against the other commercial varieties on the market.
"During the PBR process, when we found out that it has special DNA, it just confirmed what we felt all along — this is a very special grass.
"With the PBR in place, there will be 18 years of protection for the turf producers who grow New Frontier to offer their customers a new Australian soft buffalo with advantages and benefits such as less mowing and drought tolerance."
Mr Cray said that in addition to the special DNA results New Frontier also had agronomic traits that were also "exceptional" including its extensive fibrous root system which was almost "rhizome like".
This feature had not been observed in other commercial varieties of soft buffalo.
This prominent root development would allow turf producers to harvest commercially with little to no soil compared to other commercial buffalo varieties.
In recent grow-in and developmental studies, New Frontier had stood out compared to other well-known buffalo varieties with rate of turf cover and establishment.
In one single rep demonstration plot measuring 100 square metres established on a Southeast Queensland farm in late 2013 using only the equivalent of four square metres of New Frontier plugs, 98% turf cover was achieved within six months.
"We believe that the excellent rate of turf cover exhibited by New Frontier is made possible by the plants' ability to produce prostrate (lateral) growth," Mr Cray said.
"This lateral growth combined with the plants' ability to have a high level of more compact branching and reduced vertical growth translates to relatively quick rates of cover and establishment.
"New Frontier also has a tendency to maintain a low growth profile and produces stolons that do not "porpoise" or throw themselves out on top of the sward, unlike other common varieties of soft buffalo which tend to need more mowing."
Bob and Alexandra (Sandi) Cray are the owners of New Frontier. ASTC has been appointed by the Crays to conduct a research and quality control program for New Frontier across Australia.
Mr Cray said New Frontier "is going to be packing its bags and doing a bit of travelling outside Australia in the future".
Work was in place to introduce New Frontier overseas with a view to participating in the next National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) St Augustine (Soft Buffalo) trials conducted at multiple locations in America. A new trial was scheduled to start in 2015.
Brenda Dossey, Gold Coast Agribusiness, will be working on behalf of the Crays to launch New Frontier overseas.
Further information on New Frontier can be found at www.newfrontierbuffalo.com or by emailing email@example.com.
More research and development content regarding New Frontier will be available in future editions of TurfCraft International.
* PBR granted 2 Sep, 2013; certificate #4613.
Reference: Roche, MB (2013) Stenotaphrum secundatum Buffalo Grass 'TBLL'. Plant Varieties Journal 25 (4) 61, 211-216.
Story first published in TurfCraft International, Issue No. 159, NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2014. To subscribe contact FREECALL 1300 131 095.