Research. Not marketing. All the turf seed we sell has been selected based on independent, peer reviewed, and published research. But how do we sift through the pages and pages of research? Introduce the Turf Tech Tool and Bruce Jump.
Bruce Jump is a wealth of knowledge and has been our Turf Seed Product Manager since 2011. We asked him to tell us a little about his journey and how the seed goes from the field to our bags.
He completed his biology degree from Purdue in 1973 and his Masters in Horticulture from Purdue in 1979. From there, his first job was in the sales world selling ag products. He did that for a few years before wanting to get back into horticulture.
That was when a gallon of Trimec herbicide put a lot into motion. Bruce was visiting a turf grass distributor in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He turned around the metal can to see who manufactured it. It was PBI Gordon out of Kansas City, MO. Bruce called the toll number (which he can still recite today). That decision got him connected with the sales manager and ended up with the company flying him out and hiring him on the spot.
This opened up his career in horticulture where he later worked for companies like CountryMark Cooperatives, and Estes until he was tapped to be our Turf Seed Manager in the Professional Products Group in 2011.
He sold his first bag of seed professionally in 1987 and estimated that he’s helped sell thousands more since.
Why do I get different cultivars?
Bruce explains the varieties or cultivars like this:
“Imagine going to a green house or favorite garden center to pick out flowers or tomatoes. Would you pick out a generic tomato? No one would ever do that. You choose a kind for a specific purpose.
Beefsteaks are big and red. Romas are ideal for canning. San Marzano tomatoes are great for Italian sauce. Or think of petunias. Some are purple. Some are pink. Some are striped. Some are upright. Some are viney. The same thing is true with grass seed varieties.
If you open a bag of our seed and put the seeds in our hands. You can't tell one from another. You can't tell from the seed, but turfgrass cultivars are just as different as the tomato and petunia varieties.”
You can learn more about 2021's supply and why there were limited cultivars here.
How are the cultivars chosen?
Bruce’s strategy for choosing cultivars is based off obtaining the latest genetics available and choosing attributes that customers demand. He evaluates this information with published research.
Plant breeders are continuously improving varieties to be higher performing. Bruce says “while many companies are selling the previous generation, we are only buying the latest generation. If you look at the top 20 tall fescue varieties, we have five of those going into our blends. No other company has that.”
Our cultivars are chosen based off the attributes that customers demand.
- Disease, drought, and traffic tolerance (Seeds that can handle stress)
- Quality (Seeds that hold up in the Transition Zone or the central part of the US will look good other places too)
- Uniformity, density, color, texture (Even-looking, more plants per square inch, dark color, and fine-bladed characteristics are ideal)
- Seedling vigor establishment (Seeds that germinate quickly)
The key attribute Bruce is looking for is stress tolerance. According to Bruce, most varieties at the NTEP trials or Rutger’s Field Day (the largest turf breeder in the country) “look pretty good when the weather is moderate, moisture is adequate and disease pressure is low. The color, density, texture, and uniformity are good. The minute you start putting stress on them, humidity, drought, disease, traffic across grass, that's what separates the varieties that are super all-stars versus the minor league varieties that start getting patchy disease.”
So how does Bruce evaluate these attributes? NTEP or the National Turfgrass evaluation Program is the largest body of published turfgrass data in the world. “That's the data source,” Bruce says. “I don't make up stuff or listen to sales pitches. We use published data from universities from land grants. You can get independent, peer-reviewed, published research on the most top-performing grass seed in the world.”
What is the Turf Tech Tool?
Bruce explains the Turf Tech Tool he developed as an “algorithmic, calculating dashboard. A gigantic spreadsheet that goes into NTEP’s site and finds the best varieties. It’s a mind-numbing number of rows and columns, however it is some of the best data in the world for professionals.”
He built this patented tool in 2015 and has been using it to go into the database to find varieties in top statistical group by attribute by state. That information is used to go to our seed vendors and select turf varieties.
Why does Heritage PPG add PGS to their seed?
Days to 80% Germination:
B. Horgan, E. Watkins, A. Holman. University of Minnesota. 2012
PGS stands for plant growth stimulant. The reason we add it, says Bruce, is because of “research, not marketing.” We paid for research through the University of MN to spray Gravity PGS on six different turf seeds and watched for emergents and germination. Out of 100 seeds of Tall Fescue with an 80% germination rate, how long does it get 80 seeds to germinate? Seeds treated with PGS germinated two weeks faster than untreated seeds.
Where PGS really shines is when stress is involved. If it’s cool or dry it can slow down germination, but Gravity SL PGS can combat this. It’s also worth noting that PGS is not coding or bulk/inert matter. When you order 50lbs of seed, you are getting 50lbs of seed.
When can I get the new turfgrass seed for 2022?
Mountain View Seed harvesting a fine fescue field
Due to the nearly perfect conditions for growing grass seed, Oregon, specifically the Willamette Valley, is the “grass capital of the world.” Usually, the turfgrass dries down the first week of July and the farmers cut this dry harvest like they do a field of wheat and harvest the seed.
This year (2022) due to a cold spring, the harvest is ten days to two weeks later than normal. This delayed the crop and means harvest will be later.
After the seed is harvested, it still needs to be cleaned and processed. Next, it is sent to seed laboratories to be certified and tagged. Then it will be shipped. If this whole process goes well, we expect to have the new crop of seed by late August.