Extreme Drought Condition Research to Help Greenkeepers Battle Climate Change

2022 - another glorious summer, but another full of challenges for turf managers.  The combination of heat and drought, particularly in England, has resulted in loss of grass cover on many golf courses, only four years after the decimation of 2018. 


In England, the Met Office has declared 2022 the joint warmest summer (with 2018) on record according to mean temperature. In fact, four of the five warmest summers on record for England have now occurred since 2003 and, up until the end of August, 2022 has been the driest recorded year since 1976 across the whole of the UK.


For turfgrass managers looking to replace lost grass cover, help is at hand.  Barenbrug grass breeders and research partners have been analysing and screening turfgrass performance under controlled drought conditions for many years, at breeding stations in Holland and France, and at the internationally renowned plant research facility Landlab, in Italy.   


Hard fescue


For the UK golf market, this research culminated with the launch of Sustainable Grass Technology (SGT) in 2020.  Central to this concept is the increased use of new and improved varieties of hard fescue, a species of fine fescue with inherent drought tolerance, but now with the capability of producing high quality fine turf also.  Hardtop exhibits the best resilience to heat and drought in Landlab trials, whilst another cultivar, Beacon, excels in independent testing across Europe in GEVES and BSPB/STRI official lists.


Of course, trial plots are one thing, but real-world testing on courses played in high-stress conditions is another. That's why trialling new products with course managers is always a crucial stage for Barenbrug.


With SGT Fine Fescue, Ian Kinley, Course Manager at Royal Porthcawl, tested the product.


Ian reviewed: "Barenbrug SGT Fine Fescue is currently our product of choice for links fairways. Following grass loss during the 2018 drought, we needed a seed mixture that would withstand prolonged periods of drought and heat. A discussion with Dr David Greenshields led to us increase our hard fescue usage and trial new and improved varieties of this species. We have seen significant benefits and feel confident that we are in a better position to cope with extreme weather conditions moving forward. 


"It is great to see that Barenbrug has launched SGT Fine Fescue on the back of success at Porthcawl and other venues, in addition to the continued research and development that supports the product."


Trialled and Tested


SGT Fine Fescue was created in 2021 using the extensive drought research and real-life trials in the UK. In addition to the hard fescue varieties, Barjessica strong creeping red fescue was chosen for its unparalleled recovery after drought.  The product also contains slender creeping and Chewings red fescues for improved disease tolerance and shoot density.


SGT Rye Fairway


In addition to the Fine Fescue product, the SGT line-up features SGT Rye Fairway for use on inland golf courses.  The drought-tolerant fescues Hardtop, Barjessica and Beacon are combined with a perennial ryegrass, Barprium, for more extensive turf performance across a range of soil types.


Barprium excels in drought and disease trials and has another trick up its sleeve.  In an independent UK trial with STRI, this fine-leafed cultivar proved its capacity for nitrogen-use-efficiency by requiring 50% less fertiliser input to deliver equivalent turf performance to other top-rated perennial ryegrasses.




As a result, SGT technology promises outstanding turf performance with reduced irrigation, fertiliser and chemical inputs on fairways, tees, and roughs.  Minimising these factors complements low input maintenance and reduces costs significantly.  Overseeding and/or full renovation with these innovative grass seed mixtures offers a chance to future-proof golf courses facing uncertainty from climate and regulatory pressures.


What’s in the bag

SGT Fine Fescue Varieties

  Variety Species
30% Beacon Hard Fescue
30% Barjessica Strong creeping red fescue
20% Hardtop Hard fescue
10% Bodega Chewings fescue
10% Barcrown Slender creeping red fescue



SGT Rye Fairway Varieties

  Variety Species
30% Barprium Perennial ryegrass
30% Barjessica Strong creeping red fescue
20% Bodega Chewings red fescue
10% Hardtop Hard fescue
10% Beacon Hard fescue


In-depth research and further information on SGT Fine Fescue and Rye Fairway can be found here.


Royal Porthcawl Golf Club