This past week I attended a seed conference in Oregon courtesy of our seed distributor, Ewing. We buy a truckload of fescue seed from them every fall, making us their biggest customer in Oklahoma for seed, so they treated me to a trip to Oregon to tour some of the seed facilities and farms. Most of the cool-season grass seed such as fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass is produced, grown, and bagged there, and sent to all over the country and the world for planting. It was my first visit to Oregon and the Willamette Valley, and it was beautiful. It's the perfect place in the country to grow cool-season turf such as fescue, with abundant rainfall, cool temperatures, great soil, with zero Brown Patch and other turf diseases! Oh to be so lucky! Here in Oklahoma, with temperatures approaching 100 as we speak already in June, it's a little tough to say the least. Hence the need for us to buy a truckload of fescue seed again this fall.
Scientists and turf researchers are always looking for better seeds and superior turf at these places also. There was one project which DLF Trifolium has released which really intrigued me. It's called Mycroclover. It's basically a new strain of clover they have developed which is much smaller and with fewer flowers compared to white clover, which is considered a weed in home lawns. Clover is a legume, which is a type of plant which can fixate nitrogen from the air (have plenty of that) and turn it into a form of nitrogen which plants can use in the form of nitrate. This process called nitrogen fixation (did you fall asleep in science class??) is nature's way of replenishing the soil with nitrogen, which all plants need in order to be green and grow, especially turfgrass.
So Myrcoclover is a patented product, available now, which is added in small amounts to regular seed mixtures such as ryegrass or fescue, and sown into the soil. Enough of the clover comes up and grows right in with the grass. And as it does, it produces nitrogen from the air in the soil structure, which is available to the turf for growth. So the rational for this is for the mycroclover to provide enough N for the turf to grow without the need, or at least a decrease in the need, for conventional fertilizer. What a deal! But wait--won't that put LawnAmerica and others out of business? Well, even if this does actually pan out, we'll just adapt and move on.
In this age of sustainability, this deal really does sound intriguing at the very least. Many of my colleagues at the conference were snickering and making fun of planting what most consider weeds to help turf. But not me. I may be laughing all the way to the bank if I could show this process actually works. I'm all for decreasing the need for fertilization and pesticides, as long as it works. There's just not much out there now which does work. But this is using nature, in the form of a unique plant such as clover, to help provide for the needs of another plant--grass. It's a symbiotic relationship, and they are found all the time in nature, compared to a monoculture of growing pure bermudagrass or fescue. That looks great, but it's really tough to do at times.
It's a different look, with small clover interspersed with the turf. But it's really not a weed, as a weed is just a plant growing out of place. And in this case, the clover is planted. I remember growing up with clover throughout our lawn, running barefoot through what grass we did have, trying not to get stung by bees. Mycroclover has very few flowers, and it's much smaller, so it really doesn't look too bad in with the turf. It's all a matter of perception and what one is used to. Another benefit to the turf is that the clover has an extensive root system, which actually helps aerate the soil.
So I'm looking for a few lawns, parks, or other turf areas to try this mycroclover in this fall. I don't know how it would perform mixed with bermudagrass, but I'd like to try. I feel confident it will work well with fescue. So contact us if you want more information, or you would like to be a one of my "projects" this fall. Who knows? In 30 years, this may be what homeowners do, or are forced to do because of regulations. And you could be leading the way. And then again, we both could be the laughingstock of the neighborhood. You just never know.