Great Weather and Speakers Highlight Tour of Grass Seed Capital of the World

by Nik Wall

"Fantastic", "very informative" and "amazing hospitality" were just some of the comments after the Premier Pacific Seeds Ltd bus tour to Oregon's Willamette Valley, otherwise known as the grass seed capital of the world.

This past September a group of 20 turf managers from various municipalities, turf farms, and hydro seed contractors travelled to the Willamette Valley in Oregon to visit the epicentre of cool season turf grass research and increase their knowledge of the turf grass industry. First stop was the DLF International Seeds research farm which included a turf plot tour of both new and experimental varieties of perennial ryegrass, kentucky bluegrass, and turf type tall fescue and a BBQ. Being on the forefront of turf grass research and conversing with the top experts in the seed industry like Dr. Leah Brilman, Research Director Steve Reid, among others was excellent. Also, viewing turf type tall fescue being mowed and maintained at a 1/2 inch height of cut was very impressive.

Viewing the WCTA ryegrass trials at OSU's Lewis-Brown Research farm.  Image courtesy Premier Pacific Seeds

Examining Turf type Tall fescue trials at the DLF International Research farm.  Image courtesy Premier Pacific Seeds

The second day was filled with stops at the Oregon State University (OSU) including the OSU Seed Lab- one of the most diverse seed sample testing facilities in the US, a tour with Dr. Alec Kowalewski at the Lewis-Brown research farm where ongoing NTEP trials were being monitored, and the OSU baseball and soccer fields that were recently fraised mowed. After a respite, we were onto some local seed farms where seed is grown, cleaned, and packaged sometimes for export around the world. Doerfler farms was one of the highlights as it is a huge operation that farms over 16,000 acres of exclusively grass seed. 

The last stop on the way home included a tour with the head grounds keeper of Safeco Field, Bob Christofferson. It was a unique visit because the baseball season was over for the Mariners and the grounds crew were preparing for the Eagle's concert the next day including the setup of a massive stage and turf covers on the field. In addition, on the tour we discovered Bob would be renovating Safeco field for the first time in 18 years. Over that time the organic matter buildup had raised the level of the field by 4 inches so they were eager to re-grade the field, install a new growing medium and turf grass mix on the field. As of October 26, the Mariners are midway through the full scale renovation with all the turf and soil removed (you can find all the photos via Bob's twitter @BCsodfather).

We look forward to our next turf grass tour to Oregon!