Implications of GM Turfgrass to the Green Industry are Huge

What do you think about Roundup-resistant turfgrass?
by Ron Hall/Editor-in-Chief
2/12/2014

In case you missed the news: Scotts MiracleGro is testing Roundup-resistant Kentucky bluegrass on its employees' lawns. Scotts CEO Jim Hagedorn said so at a recent shareholders meeting. He also said the company is looking to ramp up its production with an eye to bringing the grass to the market as early as 2016.

Shame on me for not keeping closer watch on this particular development.

The news kind of snuck up on me as I hadn't been aware that the USDA on July 1, 2011 gave Scotts the go-ahead, basically through what, to many observers, looks like a technicality. Or that Scotts was so intent or so ready to bring the genetically modified seed to market.

The implications for the lawn care industry are huge, in particular the multi-billion-dollar segment of the industry that cares for cool-season lawns. Kentucky bluegrass is the turfgrass of choice in the temperate climates of North America. Its beauty and utility make it a favorite for home lawns, parks, sports fields, golf course fairways; you name it.

So how huge would a genetically modified (GM) Kentucky bluegrass be to the market? I can only guess at this point, and look to agriculture and the impact that GM beans, corn and other food crops have had on their respective markets. Will consumers look at turfgrass with the same benign indifference to genetic modification of turfgrass, even though it's neither food nor fiber?

It's not out of the question. Or, at least Scotts Miracle-Gro thinks that consumers won't mind. The company obviously feels that the lure to consumers of having weed free lawns by only spraying (or having them sprayed), say, twice a year with Roundup (glyphosate) will overcome any objections to GM turfgrass.

The effect upon the professional lawn care and also the lawn maintenance segments of the green industry could be transformational. The widespread adoption of the technology would require professional lawn servicers to dramatically change their management programs. How about the effect of the GM Kentucky bluegrass on the specialty chemical industry?

Ultimately, consumers and their pocketbooks will decide the matter. And that, of course,  will depend  upon how effectively Scotts gets its message concerning the advantages of GM Kentucky bluegrass to them. That's assuming it brings the seed to market, which looks like a real possibility to me right now.

What do you think about GM turfgrass? Share your thoughts and we'll pass them along as we continue to report on the issue. Contact me at rhall@mrpllc.com.