NTEP needs your help!

You may recall last year around this time that the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) was battling to save its USDA funding that President Clinton proposed cutting. NTEP won that battle and maintained its funding. But the war isn't over yet. President Clinton's proposed budget for fiscal year 1998 (starting in October 1997) again includes no funding to support NTEP. NTEP reports form the basis for variety evaluations and recommendations to homeowners, golf-course superintendents, sod producers, landscape contractors, institutional grounds managers and lawn-care operators across the United States. The approximately $35 billion turfgrass industry is the leading agricultural segment in many states. However, USDA has no scientists devoted to turfgrass research, and - thus - USDA is poised to eliminate what little support USDA gives to the industry. The only way we can correct this situation is to make Congress understand the problem and submit its own spending bill that includes NTEP funding. You can help by contacting your U.S. senator and representative and voicing your concerns.

With the advent of current advances in the area of genetic engineering, the wonder grasses we've all been waiting for may be here sooner than we think. Before genetic engineering came on the scene, developing a new turfgrass variety with just the traits you're looking for was a long and arduous task. Two of the biggest hurdles for turfgrass breeders were to find turfgrasses with the desirable traits and to make sure those traits passed on through various generations. This more-or-less hit-or-miss approach was very time-consuming - researchers spent many years developing a new variety. With genetic-engineering techniques, however, we now can transfer known genes for a particular trait to turfgrass callus tissue (an unorganized clump of cells) to develop the new variety. The beauty of this technique is that it enables researchers to extract genes from organisms not even related to turfgrass. Find out more about this process in "Engineering turfgrass for the future" (page 16).

Whether you deal with a golf-course rough, a home lawn or an athletic field, you need to properly prepare the seedbed to be successful in establishing new turf. Sure you might get turf to establish by doing nothing but throw seed out on bare ground, but your chances of success are slim. While teaching basic turf management to students at the University of Maryland, the first exercise on which I had them work was to establish turf using all recommended steps and compare it to turf established with various steps left out. The students monitored the sets of turf throughout the semester. They could readily see that you can establish turf by just throwing seed out, but by incorporating all recommended steps, establishment was quicker and turf quality was much improved. For more information on proper seedbed preparation, check out our "What's New" department (page 58). Co-authors Steve McGuirk, with Madrone Landscaping Group, and Dr. Ali Harivandi, with the University of California, review steps for establishing turf and the equipment you'll need to help you do the job right.

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