There’s More to Grass than Green!
If you have spent more than a few minutes with a food farmer, dairyman or rancher, he or she might very well smile big and say something like “Food doesn’t come from the grocery store!” This is a polite way of saying that what shows up at the grocery store is the product of a boatload of experience, history, trials, research, technology, risk, heartbreak, joy, and of course, lots and lots of hard work. It is also a polite way of saying that these things are taken for granted by most people to a large extent.
Something very similar can be said about the grass that’s in just about every yard, landscape, sports field, golf course and common area in the known universe. While saying “Grass doesn’t come from the landscaper!” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, the message is crystal clear – there is a lot more to grass than green.
So let’s talk about grass – more specifically the improved turfgrass varieties that find their way to your lawn, your local park, your sports field or your golf course. Improved turfgrasses are complex organisms with many attributes and personalities. Besides their aesthetic characteristics (color, texture, blade size, growth habit, etc.), turfgrasses also are judged by their drought hardiness and recovery, their disease and insect resistance, their nutrient requirements and their climate tolerances (like temperature and water quality). But news alert! – ¬the continuous improvements in these various attributes have not arrived in today’s turf varieties by accident! In other words, you can’t just go dig this stuff up in the woods. Rather, each of today’s major cultivars in six major varieties of warm-season grasses (St. Augustine, Zoysia, Bermuda, Centipede and Paspalum (including Bahia) are the product of a boatload of experience, history, trials, research, technology, risk, heartbreak, joy and of course, lots and lots of hard work. (See what just happened there?)
Yes, Virginia, there are turfgrass scientists – and many of the greatest ones in the world are right here in Florida. Working with them and supporting them with major financial support and field trials are a relative handful of turfgrass growers (representing most of the improved turfgrass grown in the State) who are themselves represented by the Turfgrass Producers of Florida (TPF), their statewide trade association. And make no mistake about it, TPF is not your granddaddy’s trade association – it is a force of agriculture, dedicated to the beautiful and sustainable greenspaces beloved by old and new Floridians alike, to science and education, and to the responsible use of water and fertilizer. These scientists and growers have, over the last two decades especially, been responsible for the development of new growing and management techniques, as well as amazing new varieties of improved turfgrasses which may look like their predecessors in many ways, but which have internal workings that require less supplemental irrigation and nutrition, and which fend off pests and diseases much more robustly, thus dramatically reducing the use of crop protection chemicals.
Like their food-crop brothers and sisters, growers of improved turfgrasses love what they do and work hard at it – most have invested their lives in it. They believe in the value and sustainability of their products, and they continue to invest in leading-edge research efforts and cultivar development in order to further build this legacy of stewardship for the benefit of all of Florida and its natural systems. Even as we speak, new and ever-better improved turfgrasses are on the way to a lawn or landscape near you.
So every now and then, as you play in the grass and breath the clean air it generates, think about the incredible backstory – it’s a good one.