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(Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — Johnston Seed Co. is experiencing success on national and international levels for two of its newer patents for the turf industry.

Monaco, called the next generation of the Bermuda grass, is being marketed by Barenburg U.S.A. While Rio, a polysynthetic variety, is being marketed by Mountain View Seed Co.

“Both have been exceptional turf products,” said Johnston Seed Co. President Joey Meibergen. “They have performed consistently across the country.”

‘Blood, sweat and tears’

The Monaco turf was introduced in Europe during the ETP Seminars & Turf 2018.

Promotions call it “the next generation seeded Bermuda grass that is a proven performer for a wide range of applications in the turf business.”

Dr. Charles Taliaferro, Johnston Bermuda grass breeder, said in promotional materials that “Monaco Bermuda grass has performed well in turf evaluation trials conducted over a range of environments. Its demonstrated performance makes it a good choice for a wide range of applications.”

Monaco, Cynodon dactylon var. dactylon, is from the Johnston Seed breeding program. It is a synthetic variety produced by the inter-crossing of five clonal parent lines. All the seed is from the Syn1 generation, which results in superior genetic integrity and seed quality year in and year out.

According to its promotions, it is excellent for golf courses, sports turf and high-quality lawns. It has excellent density and wear tolerance. It is bred for a genetically darker green color and it also has quicker spring green-up, high fall color retention and winter hardiness.

Monaco, in 2016 NTEP trials, graded the highest, or tied for highest, in turf grass quality (5.9), spring green-up (5.3) and fall color (November, 5.8). There were 10 trial sites from coast to coast and from the transition zone to the deep south. Promoters said the range of implementation makes it the perfect choice for traditional Bermuda grass regions and transition climates alike.

Monaco is coated with Yellow Jacket Enhanced Seed Coating. Company promotions say Yellow Jacket is like having a sponge around each seed. Once water is applied, the coating holds the moisture and other nutrients around the seed — making them available as needed for germination and establishment. Without coating, the water simply passes the seed, allowing it to dry out, resulting in more frequent watering and increased expense.

Meibergen, in a release from Johnston Seed promoting Monaco, thanked the research team for its work.

“It has taken JSC 12 years to develop this release,” he said. “I am very proud of what our team has developed and know the blood, sweat and tears it takes to be a leader in the development and production of warm season grasses.”

Barenburg reports Monaco is a high-performing Bermuda grass in terms of quality and in time. With its high color retention, the growing season will not only be extended in the spring, but in the fall as well.

‘Why you have patents’

Mountain View Seeds reports Rio exhibits excellent cold and frost tolerance as well as early spring green-up, making it a great choice for not only the South but in areas of the transition zone where Bermuda grass is used.

Rio, Mountain View seeds writes, germinates quickly and was the No. 1 NTEP-rated variety in establishment. Rio has excellent turf quality and good wear tolerance. It is dark green and fine-bladed, creating a very dense turf. Rio is drought- and heat-tolerant and can be used in a number of different applications.

Rio, in the NTEP data, had a 92.5 in establishment mean, 6.2 in turf grass quality mean, 6.8 in genetic color mean and 5.6 in spring green-up mean.

Like Monsanto, Rio’s breeding program started more than a decade ago, Meibergen said.

“We have millions of dollars in research and development,” he said. “That’s why you have patents, so nobody will steal them.”

Exclusive product

The company also has had success in two fairly recent turf varieties.

One is Landrun Bermuda grass sod. Johnston officials said in releases that it has all the benefits of top NTEP-ranked Bermuda grass.

It is a cold-tolerant turf-type Bermuda grass sod and is produced and marketed exclusively by Johnston.

Its strengths include:

• Excellent turf quality for higher-quality lawns.

• Fine texture.

• Good winter hardiness.

• Good wear tolerance.

It is available in 280-square-foot rolls or a 500-square-foot pallet with 2-by-4-foot slabs.

An industry homage

Iron Cutter was developed by Taliaferro. The anglicized Taliaferro comes from the Italian family name Tagliaferro, which literally translates to “Iron Cutter.”

“We did it as a sign of respect for all of his vast accomplishments in plant breeding,” Meibergen said. “An homage. He’s one of the most important figures in plant breeding.”

The newest elite vegetative Bermuda grass is currently on the market and available for certified sod production.

Iron Cutter is an F1 hybrid, highly sterile, and was developed for high-input golf, sports turf and low-input lawn and landscapes. Johnston said it forges a new path for sod Bermuda grass. It is known for drought tolerance, refined texture and cold tolerance.

“It has done exceptionally well in trial situations,” Meibergen said.

All four products have had exceptional sales growth, Meibergen said.

“We’re having a hard time growing it as much as the public demands it,” he said.

Dealing with Mother Nature

Meibergen said climate change will have a major effect on the business. He said President Joe Biden “will put a lot more effort in conservation.” There will be more warm-season plants, he said, because there will be less water.

“We’re seeing more support in conservation programs,” he said. “There is more renewable carbon. Our native plants have been the more efficient users of carbon so far.”

Johnston will continue to put an emphasis on research and development.

“You can grow only one crop at a time, and that crop takes 12 years before you see a return,” he said. “It’s a big risk. A lot of it is natural selection. We let Mother Nature determine what performs and what doesn’t.”

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Campbell is a former sports writer and current part-time writer for the News & Eagle, enidnews@enidnews.com.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Sports? Send an email to tmasri@enidnews.com.

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Graduate of Oklahoma City John Marshall (1972) and University of Oklahoma. Been at News & Eagle since June 19, 1978. Previously worked at Oklahoma Journal, Midland, Texas Reporter & Telegram, Norman Transcript, Elk City Daily News

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