In July 2020, Lawn Solutions Australia was approached by Dubai Sports City ICC Academy and Stadium Head Curator Tony Lumsden to see if it was viable to send TifTuf stolons over for a project in Dubai. Having conducted some research on drought tolerant grasses, Mr Lumsden decided to try TifTuf as a trial grass to see if the data would be relevant to Dubai’s extreme heat.
Currently, Mr Lumsden and his team use Princess 77, TifWay 419 and have recently planted Paspalum Pure Dynasty. In summer the Dubai average temperature is 42 degrees Celsius, “soil temperature can climb to over 40 degrees and water temperature pushing 40 degrees also” Mr Lumsden said. With grass under stress, water consumption is high, so Mr Lumsden was looking for a new grass that might help reduce water consumption.
With TifTuf new onto the market and the ‘Smart Approved Water Mark’, Mr Lumsden thought this would be an excellent grass for the Dubai climate. After some communication with Lawn Solutions Australia, Mr Lumsden was put in contact with Victorian turf grower StrathAyr Turf Solutions to arrange for the TifTuf stolons to be delivered.
StrathAyr have extensive experience with growing, harvesting and exporting specialist turf products and services domestically and abroad. StrathAyr made contact with Mr Lumsden to determine their exact needs and requirements, before arranging the stolons to be sent from Australia to Dubai – over 11,500km away.
The scope of works was to provide 100kg of washed TifTuf turf stolons to enable a trial area of 400m² to be planted. The most challenging aspect of exporting turf is the immense logistics requirements encompassing certificates, inspections, flight changes, clearances…. all the while factoring that the turf is a living product and there needs to be time minimisation between harvest and replanting on the other side of the world.
Office Manager Alison Hall has been with StrathAyr for many years and her experience enabled careful manoeuvring and persistent coordination of all the processes required for the Dubai project to be successfully accomplished over a six-month period.
The TifTuf stolons were harvested on November 25th, with sanitisation then conducted to ensure the grass was free from disease, insects and nematodes.
The turf material went through the washing plant three times to ensure all of the soil was removed. The turf washing facility in Seymour is environmentally friendly and water is continually recycled in a closed loop system with a dedicated dam that feeds and captures all water utilised in the process. StrathAyr have a proud fifty-year history of being world leaders in the development and provision of natural turf solutions. The process of washing turf was developed and commercialised by StrathAyr many decades ago and their world-wide patent resulted in turf washing equipment being manufactured in Seymour Victoria and exported to specialist turf farms across all corners of the globe.
The washing facility at Seymour in Victoria has a module that precisely shreds the turf to create stolons ready for planting. Once the stolons were bagged, they were rapidly dispatched to the airport where pre-arranged officials were waiting to thoroughly inspect the plant material for any diseases or pests. The stolons were then re-packed in temperature-controlled packaging and loaded onto the plane, which immediately departed via air freight to Dubai International Airport (DXB).
After a lot of communication with the UAE Ministry of Finance and Dubai Customs, Mr Lumsden received the TifTuf stolons on November 30th, after sitting in cold storage for 4 days. The stolons were again tested for nematodes on arrival with a positive result being found. As a result, the stolons needed to have repeated spray applications before final testing to ensure a negative result prior to establishment.
The stolons were spread over the plot for spraying and once given the go-ahead Mr Lumsden and his team were able to press ahead and gave the grass a very light top-dress and fertiliser application.
Hessian covers were placed over the stolons to help with moisture retention while the stolons began to establish. Day time temperatures were sitting around 26-28 degrees Celsius during this time. After approximately 12 days, the hessians were removed to see good signs of leaf growth and some root development. With half the plot covered in shade during the winter months, it was a good sign that the grass was establishing well.
The TifTuf is planted next to Princess 77 in the trial nursery, so that will provide a starting point in regard to water consumption, growth rate, shade tolerance and thatch accumulation. The shaded area of the plot will also be a valuable trial to see how the grass will perform in shade and see if it is a viable option for the cricket stadium, which has a shade issue.
The plan for the grass is to also look at trialling it in the cricket wicket, as the texture (leaf size, small internodes) is very similar to TifWay 419 and quite a bit less course than Princess 77.
“I am very excited about the possibility of this grass in the Middle East, given the possibility of less water consumption and the lack of varieties available here.”
“Given that the International Cricket Council Academy needs to be leaders in the field, we are constantly evaluating what we do and pushing ahead with new innovative products and research. I see TifTuf as a great opportunity for us to do that.” Mr Lumsden said.
Further testing, evaluation and analysis will continue over the next 12-24 months.
For more information on TifTuf Hybrid Bermuda (Couch Grass) or to find a local supplier click here.