Tuesday, September 04, 2012

NTEP "Encouraged" with new Test Results

By Curt Harler

The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP: www.ntep.org) changed some of the ground rules for testing grasses. The new program was first outlined in the March 2010 TurfGrass Trends. The major change was a cutback from a five-year test program to four years in a number of tests. The focus of some tests changed, as well.

When we checked back this month with Kevin Morris, executive director of NTEP, to see how the changes were going, he was “encouraged” by early results but said it still is a bit too early to tell definitely.

“We just published our first data (under the new regime), a ryegrass test put out in 2010,” he says.

As part of the new program, half of the seed plots established around the country are standard variety tests. The other half are what are termed “ancillary” tests – they are specific to one aspect of the turf… say traffic tolerance or drought resistance.

“We will stay with that program for a while,” Morris says.

As the number of commercial varieties available dropped, NTEP saw a need to move away from the beauty-contest aspects of variety testing in favor of focused, trait-specific research.

Last year, NTEP started a major bluegrass testing program. This year, tall fescue is the focus. Right now, Morris’s office in Beltsville, Md., is piled with tall fescue seed samples.

The industry trend in fescues had been to fewer varieties. But that is changing and that change means there will be more activity in the ancillary test program on traits like drought resistance and pesticide tolerance.

“The seed industry definitely likes the new program and I’ve gotten positive comment from users,” Morris concludes.

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