Winter Games

The vast majority of winter games pitch grass seed mixes comprise 3 or 4 cultivars (varieties) of Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). This is due to the speed of germination, high wear tolerance, speed of growth and rate of recovery.

The BSPB Turfgrass seed booklet provides a list of the commercially available cultivars of Perennial ryegrass that have been through a rigorous testing procedure. The ryegrass section is divided into Table S1 (Sports Uses, mown at 25mm) and Table L1 (Lawns, Landscaping, Summer Sports and Turf Trials, mown at 10 15 mm). Table S1 is the most appropriate for selecting Perennial ryegrass for winter games pitch use.

Table S1

The cultivars are ranked according to the mean rating for live ground cover (wear tolerance) and visual merit. Most commercially available Perennial ryegrass seed mixes normally comprise a blend of the cultivars on this list. In most cases the ranking provides a reliable assessment of the quality and suitability of the grass for winter games pitch and the seeds are ranked in highest to lowest in terms of mean rating.

It is also worth noting that the grasses are also scored for other factors including; recovery, shoot density, fineness of leaf, resistance to Red Thread (a common fungal disease that affects perennial ryegrass), winter greenness and summer greenness.

Probably the most useful of the additional ratings is resistance to Red Thread, as this is a very commonly occurring disease affecting Perennial ryegrass. It is also more likely to occur in low management input situations where the frequency of mowing and fertiliser application are low. Both encourage development of the disease and therefore resistance to red thread is worthy of consideration.

The final column in the table provides a list of the UK agents that supply the cultivars. Therefore it is normally easier to access mixes that are listed by the same agent. Most companies provide standard mixes that comprise a blend of higher and lower performing grasses. Bespoke mixes can be requested, but this will increase the cost.

Table S1 s

This table contains cultivars of a sub species of perennial ryegrass called Tetraploid (standard ryegrass is diploid). These are becoming more commonly used as standard in seed mixes as Tetraploids germinate quickly and have stronger growth in colder temperatures. The most appropriate use is for over-seeding in the late autumn/early winter or early spring. The ratings i.e. wear tolerance, visual merit, tend to be lower than normal ryegrass due to the larger leaf/plant size.

Summer Sports

Table L1

Traditionally summer sports (cricket wickets, tennis courts, golf tees and fairways) have tended to use other finer leaved grass species such as bent (Agrostis sp.) and red fescue (Festuca rubra). However Perennial ryegrass cultivars have improved considerably with respect to fineness of leaf, shoot density and tolerance of close mowing and in many

situations have replaced bent and fescue due to ryegrass’s increased wear tolerance and faster germination and growth characteristics.

The ranking criteria are different due to the importance of the other factors listed above. The cultivars are ranked according to the mean rating for shoot density, fineness of leaf, slow regrowth (important in low maintenance, landscaping situations) and visual merit.

In common with Table S1, the grasses are also scored for other factors including; cleanness of cut, resistance to Red Thread, winter greenness and summer greenness. Disease resistance is worth considering again and it may also be worth referring to table S1 to compare wear tolerance (some grasses appear in both tables), therefore a fine leaved ryegrass with good wear tolerance could be very useful for areas of high wear.

Other Grasses

Smooth-Stalked Meadow Grass (Poa pratensis)

This grass has similar wear tolerance and leaf size to perennial ryegrass, but has one major disadvantage it takes a long time to germinate and establish. It has two potential advantages, it has improved heat tolerance and offers good spring recovery due to its rhizomatous growth habit (below surface runners offering vegetative propagation).

Turf growers often use smooth-stalked meadow grass due to the increased shear strength afforded by the rhizomes.

Tall Fescue (Festuca arrundinacea)

Tall fescue also has similar wear tolerance to ryegrass however the leaves are coarser and less attractive. The main advantages are tolerance to hot, dry weather and suitability for low maintenance landscaping situations.

Grass choice is becoming more important as groundman strive to maintain good sward density, wear tolerance and recovery. If in doubt, contact a suitably qualified sports surface consultant or your National Governing Body for further advice.