There are a number of key projects currently funded by Hort Innovation using the turf R&D levy, from research into soil amendments to industry development activities. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. To see how the industry’s marketing levy is being put to use, check out the marketing snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

The turf Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) is set to meet again during November, with a meeting summary to be made available on Hort Innovation’s Turf grower page.

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the SIAP has also recently been completed, with information on the chair to be made available on the grower page shortly.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

Any questions?

As well as the Turf grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Management Lead John Vatikiotis is always available to answer questions on the turf program. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Craig Perring.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Application of soil amendments to maintain turf quality on sandy soils under reduced irrigation (TU13000)

Status: Near-completed project

What’s it all about? Established in 2013, this project is investigating the use of inorganic soil amendments to improve the water retention of sandy soils and to decrease turf water requirements. This is particularly important in the face of future water restrictions due to climate change and population growth.

The project is due for completion at the end of 2016.

What’s the latest update? In the project’s last irrigation season, two key experiments were conducted. The first used a soil-column set-up to see if placing amendments deeper in the soil profile (5 to 15cm depth, as opposed to 0 to 10cm) would better maintain turfgrass colour and decrease irrigation loss to soil evaporation. It found that:

  • Incorporating amendments in a free-draining sandy soil profile under limited irrigation over summer can improve turf quality and reduce water stress.
  • Amendment placement is crucial: columns with amendment bands placed lower remained greener than those with no amendments or with amendments in the top soil.
  • The better-quality turf in lower-banded treatments was very likely due to reduced loss of irrigation water through evaporation: measurements of turf surface temperature, column evapotranspiration and soil water content strongly suggested this.
  • Though there were small differences between turfgrass species and soil profiles, results were largely consistent.

The project also looked at the effects of sand topdressing on turf growth and water use, though here the results were inconclusive due to the effects of previous irrigation treatments.


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The soil-column experiment looking at amendment placement


 

Developing a national standard for turf as an erosion control measure (TU13034)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project is developing an Australian Standard for the use of turf in erosion control in construction management and completed works (buildings, roads, waterways etc).

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting, the draft standard, designated to be AS 5181, was progressing well. It is expected to be released for public comment during November.

 

Turf industry communications (TU12014)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project delivers up-to-date information on R&D, marketing and other resources that support the profitability and sustainability of Australian turf growers and others involved in the industry.

What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:

  • The quarterly Turf Australia Industry Magazine, the latest editions of which are available at www.turfaustralia.com.au/news/2016-industry-magazine
  • The fortnightly Turf Australia e-newsletter
  • The Turf Australia website, www.turfaustralia.com.au
  • The Turf Australia social media program, which includes the Lawnspiration Facebook page, designed for users of turf, and the Turf Australia Facebook page for turf growers
  • Turf Facts factsheets, as needed.

 

NxGen 2016-18 (TU15002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project supports the annual NxGen forums. These events encourage leadership development, communicate R&D and marketing information, and enable professional networking for people aged under 40 in the Australian turf industry.

Turf levy funding enables a substantially reduced registration cost for delegates to enable widespread professional development of the next generation of Australian turf growers.

What’s the latest update? The 2016 NxGen forum was held in Perth over two days at the end of August. Over 40 young turf growers attended and left the event ready to consider new ideas and approaches, from revisiting water management to giving hybrid turf production thought.

The forum included field tours to see the industry in action. The growers visited…

  • Bullsbrook Farm, to learn about the farm’s operations including its innovative overhead irrigation system and how increasing environmental regulations are being handled
  • Kings Park – one of the world’s largest inner-city parks – to talk turf maintenance, including how sting nematode is being managed with the use of compost in the soil profile
  • NIB Stadium, to look at the growing and maintenance of hybrid grass
  • Domain Stadium, to hear about the management of sports turf.

There were also talks from a range of experts, including environmental scientist Josh Byrne, who drilled home the importance of green space in Australia’s cities.

The latest turf research from the University of Western Australia was also presented, while other talks focused on sports turf research, the latest in turf growing and installation and more.


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Young turf growers coming together at the 2016 NxGen forum


 

National R&D conference 2016 and 2017 (TU15700)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This projects supports a new approach to industry conference and field day events: state-based seminars to deliver relevant and reliable information to the Australian turf industry. The ultimate goal is to help growers:

  • Run more profitable businesses
  • Learn new production methods
  • Realise the results of levy-funded R&D and marketing projects
  • Assess new equipment, innovations and management practices that may aid more efficient turf production
  • Professionally network with others in the turf industry.

What’s the latest update? The 2016 state-based seminar program was rolled out in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth during July and August. While content was tweaked to be relevant to each specific area, key topics covered by the seminars included:

  • Implementing precision farming on turf farms
  • How the turf levy is being used to make turf farming more profitable
  • Key issues for industry R&D
  • Using social media to generate more business
  • Using accountants and taxation figures to improve profitability
  • How to identify and influence different personalities to generate more business.

turf-state-forum

A presentation at the Brisbane state forum event


 

Business and industry development for the turf industry 2013-17 (TU13004)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2013, this project funds a dedicated Business and Industry Development Manager (BIDM). Some of the projects key aims are to:

  • Facilitate collaboration and engagement with and between key industry bodies
  • Facilitate technology-adoption and communication programs for growers and other industry stakeholders
  • Deliver training programs and workshops to increase industry understanding and skills
  • Have input into strategic planning and investment processes for the turf industry
  • Have input into relevant R&D projects.

What’s the latest update? The BIDM is responsible for a large number of activities for the turf industry. Some of the key outcomes and benefits from these services to date include:

  • Participation in the creation of the Australian Standard for the use of turf as an erosion and sediment control agent (project description above)
  • Input into the strategic planning and investment processes for the turf industry
  • Development and management of industry training and education programs, including the national state forum program and NxGen program for 2016
  • Coordination and management of the turf industry communication program
  • Regular input into a range of additional industry communication mediums, such as TurfCraft and the Turf Grass Journal, to further inform and reinforce key industry development information
  • Development of a ‘Young Worker Exchange’ program
  • Facilitating an increase in levy compliance within the turf industry and a drop in levy collection costs
  • Input into the successful ‘Green Cities’ project proposal to Hort Innovation
  • Regular collaboration and engagement with key industry bodies and associations.

 

Other R&D projects of note…

» Turf industry statistics and research 2016/17 (TU16001), for which a service provider is currently being appointed to build on existing turf data

» An environmental assessment of the Australian turf industry (TU16000), for which a service provider is currently being appointed. This project will benchmark the turf industry’s environmental performance and make recommendations for strengthening this performance without compromising on productivity or profitability.

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

The final year of the turf industry’s three-year strategic marketing program continues to make turf accessible to consumers with the provision of plenty of practical, relatable and inspiring information. It also continues to demonstrate the benefits of natural grass and build the profile of Turf Australia as the ‘go-to’ for all things turf.

During the first quarter of 2016/17, marketing activity has had a strong focus on people ‘new to turf’, with the provision of content targeted towards new and recent buyers of turf. Content delivery has centred around social media, capitalising on the fact that there are 25,000+ people who are currently fans of the industry’s Lawnspiration Facebook page (www.facebook.com/lawnspiration) representing a broad range of understanding as to the benefits, varieties and maintenance requirements of lawns. Activity was also supported by content on the Turf Australia website.

A series of how-to videos were produced as part of the activity, with the first one released at the start of spring and focused on ‘Backyard Beginners’. Infographics and other social posts have also targeted more experienced turf lovers to ensure there is consistent content for all target demographics.

Seasonal media releases are also part of this year’s marketing campaign, with the first spring release gaining some good media traction.

In October, backyard cricket marketing activity kicked off. This activity involves working with turf advocate and cricket curating legend Les Burdett (Adelaide Oval’s former curator). There is a competition as part of the activity that reinforces the natural social and environmental benefits of turf around the home and incorporates the aspects of fun and maintaining pride in your lawn. The competition will run through until mid-December, with five winners receiving a family pass to a KFC Big Bash game in their home state.

The turf marketing campaign will continue to see the rollout of further video content targeting more educated turf users, as well as seasonal and reactive/proactive media releases. The campaign will also incorporate new research, with a Galaxy poll set to deliver insights into Australia’s shrinking backyards to drive media coverage, leverage for social media and provide growers with some much-needed information on the state of Aussie backyards.


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Some of Les Burdett’s tips for setting up a backyard cricket pitch


GROWER PROFILE

SARAH MASON, COASTAL TURF, NSW

There’s no part of the turf business that Sarah Mason doesn’t love – and she’s across it all, from growing and harvesting, to delivering and installing, to making sales and managing the company’s website. Sarah’s a hands-on woman, and her enthusiasm for work today is overshadowed only by her excitement for what the future has in store.

“I think now is a great time for the industry, and the future is looking so bright,” she said. “Turf farms at the moment are all so busy, and we’re all doing a fantastic job of presenting a really quality product. On top of that, people are starting to see the value of turf more and steer away from synthetics, while our potential for research and marketing projects is stronger than ever.”

Sarah’s love of turf began at 16, when her parents bought a turf farm. She started working on it straight away, and while her roles have changed over the years as her own family has grown, today she works side by side in all aspects with her father, John.

“We’re a small farm with 31 acres growing turf, from which we harvest about 80,000 square metres a year,” Sarah said. The business, Coastal Turf, grows four main varieties: Queensland blue couch, wintergreen couch, palmetto buffalo and carpet grass.

“We’re always experimenting with new varieties too, and are big on using technology to track our grasses from paddock to lawn,” Sarah said. “Because we’re one of those unique industries where the person who made it is also the person who’s dropping it off, we have that strong connection to the customer. So we’ve now got a system that allows us to say to the customer, ‘Okay, your grass was grown in paddock six and this is what should be happening with it now – if it’s not, what can we come out and do to help fix that?’”

Sarah said that people tend to write turf off a bit, but the product and industry shouldn’t be underestimated. “People might think, ‘Oh, it’s just a lawn, it doesn’t matter’, but grass is so much more. For example, your lawn can cool your house by 10ᵒC in summer if you have it butted up to the building. And backyards and front yards and public green spaces have such benefits for health and wellbeing.

“In fact, our industry is rolling out a really exciting marketing project through Hort Innovation that’s encouraging families to get out and enjoy those benefits more. It’s all about backyard cricket. There’s information showing people how to make an easy backyard pitch, and they’ll be able to send in their own photos and win prizes.”

Sarah said Coastal Turf will be promoting the campaign on the business website. “I think it’s a great one to get behind. If all our little turf farms put a little bit about it up on our websites and social media, we can help spread the message so much further so much faster.”

Another piece of work that Sarah is excited about is the industry’s current erosion control project. “It’s a really important one that’s trying to get turf as a Standard for erosion control. I’ve been following this one for a while, because that’s another thing – I make a point of trying to understand what the levies we pay are going towards. And honestly, I think we’re going to have some great new levy-funded projects coming through. Because of the way Hort Innovation is now set up, we have the opportunity to pair with other industries as well – particularly nursery, because it’s such a natural fit to work together.

“I think this is important, because when we lay turf in yards or parks we need to be able to understand the plants that are going in there as well, so we can match the right grass up for the area. I’ve just learnt recently, for example, that some trees are much thirstier than others and will actually steal the water from where the turf is. So closer collaboration and opening the conversation up between our industries can only be a good thing.”

As for what else the future holds? “I’m happy to see more and more women coming into the industry, with business being passed down not just father to son, but father to daughter.  It’s one of the few industries where I don’t think women are treated any differently, as long as you get in there and get just as dirty as everyone else, and the opportunity for women is great. As for me, I’m going to continue to help make customers smile, because it’s such a happy and rewarding job.”

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