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| May 31, 2011

TruGreen LandCare will be sold

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The green industry’s first national landscape firm, created 12 years ago in an unprecedented and high-value merger, will be sold at a fire-sale price to a private equity firm.

Aurora Resurgence, part of a $2 billion Los Angeles-based investment firm, should close on its purchase of TruGreen LandCare by April 30. The deal has Aurora buying ServiceMaster’s landscape division for $38 million – a fraction of the $250 million ServiceMaster paid for it in 1999.

ServiceMaster, TruGreen LandCare’s parent company, bought LandCare USA amid a period of heavy merger and acquisition activity for the green industry, and less than a year after the newly formed company went public.
During that timeframe, TruGreen – which had seen major success in turning around underperforming lawn care companies – acquired a dozen landscape firms, but never realized the same gains on the maintenance and construction side of the business.

When combined, TruGreen and LandCare USA had revenue of more than $400 million, but ServiceMaster struggled to integrate its many acquisitions into a cohesive business, and the LandCare division has in recent years lost value. From 2008 to 2010, revenue dropped $78 million, to $238 million.

Last year, TruGreen LandCare reported a 9 percent drop in revenue. In 2009, the company posted revenue of $262 million and $316 million in 2008. The landscape division makes up about 7 percent of ServiceMaster’s total revenue, and employs 4,200 people in 60 branches across 38 states.

ServiceMaster said the deal would have no impact on its lawn care division, TruGreen LawnCare. The TruGreen Cos., which include both the lawn care and landscape divisions, was listed as the largest green industry company on Lawn & Landscape’s 2010 Top 100 list with revenue of $1.3 billion.

Stephen Donly, president of TruGreen, said the sale will create significant opportunities for his company. “In the past, certain important customers may have viewed TruGreen as a competitor since LandCare was a sister company,” Donly said. “This is no longer an issue for us.– Chuck Bowen

Scotts to remove phosphorus from fertilizer

MARYSVILLE, Ohio – The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has launched a course that will remove phosphorus from its ScottsMiracle-Gro’s lawn fertilizers, which includes the brands Scotts and Turf Builder. The company also will increase its research and development on nitrogen use in lawn fertilizer products.

The company began reducing phosphorus in its lawn food products in 2006. The next step is to remove phosphorus from lawn fertilizers by 2012. Phosphorus will remain in starter fertilizers because the nutrient is essential to the initial root development of grass and it will remain in the organic lawn food lines, the company said.
The exploration of nitrogen technology will begin immediately.

The decisions come after Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. concluded that most lawns can flourish without supplemental phosphorus applications, the company said.

The recent announcement is part of an initiative to improve water quality and conservation in the United States and includes investment in consumer communication.

“We want to provide consumers with the tools they need to create the lawn and garden they want while also being stewards of the environment,” said Jim Hagedorn, chairman and CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.

The consumer information proposal incorporates water quality and conservation messaging in advertising, dedicated websites and other digital outreach tools, as well as funding for education outreach efforts with environmental partners and local organizations.

OPEI petitions EPA to mandate E-10 availability

WASHINGTON – The Outdoor Power and Equipment Institute and a coalition of small engine groups has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to mandate that E-10 remain available at the gas pump once E-15 hits the fuel market.

E-15 has been approved for flexible-fuel vehicles, along with cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs made after 2001.However it cannot be used in off-road equipment like lawnmowers, snowblowers and chainsaws.
Moreover, if it is used in those types of equipment, it could cause serious damage to the machine.

Allowing E-15 in the marketplace could displace E-10, allowing people to misfuel or have no choice but to misfuel, said Kris Kiser, executive vice president of OPEI.

“The infrastructure for retail is such that you’re not likely to see (both)E-10 and E-15 offered at standard retail operations,” Kiser said. “There is a likelihood that a retailer might be able to make more money on a higher-content ethanol fuel, there’s less energy in it so they might be able to make a little more money selling it. If there’s an incentive there, they might not sell E-10. We’re just trying to guarantee for some time that if we’re transitioning to a new fuel, that an old fuel for old products, including older cars, is still available.”

Whether or not the EPA takes up the petition is at its own discretion.

The EPA is expected by early June to rule on what the label at the pump would look like and say to deter consumers from misfueling, Kiser said. But OPEI doesn’t think a label will do much good.

“One of the challenges once this fuel becomes available – and it’s one of the debates – is a label on the pump adequate enough to inform the consumer. We don’t believe it is,” Kiser said. “It’s just not how we work in this country. People mostly base their fuel purchasing decisions on price. What goes in the car goes in the can. So you might legally fuel your car but if you put that fuel in a can for your non-road products, your generator or landscape equipment, then you’ll misfuel the product.”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, which along with 54 ethanol manufacturers started the waver for E-15, told EthanolProducer.com that organizations like OPEI should focus more on supporting blender pumps at retail stations. The pumps give consumers options to choose from multiple blends.

OPEI, auto groups, engine groups and the food industry have lawsuits pending against the waiver to introduce E-15. Still, that might not stop it from entering the market, Kiser said.

E-15 has been approved by the EPA. Once registration of the fuel is finalized, possibly this summer, it will be available for gas stations to sell.

Kiser cautions contractors stay informed on these issues as new fuels become available and manufacturers catch up with requirements.

“We know the effects on our stuff,” Kiser says. “Again, we can design a product, but we know there will be a problem with existing equipment on E-15. And ethanol damage is irreversible, so we very much need the landscapers to understand if this fuel does become widely available do not use it in products for which it is not approved.”
– Carolyn LaWell

Tenacity approved for residential lawns

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Syngenta’s Tenacity herbicide has received registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on residential lawns.

The pre- and post-emergence herbicide controls 46 broadleaf weeds and undesired grasses in most cool-season turf types. It can be used during bare-ground renovation seeding and selective overseeding.

“Tenacity provides a unique tool for professional lawn care operators,” said Pat Willenbrock, Syngenta brand manager. “Not only does it deliver pre- and post-emergence control of tough broadleaf and grassy weeds, but it can also be used at seeding to ensure new lawns flourish instead of competing with weeds.”

Tenacity was granted reduced-risk status by the EPA due to its active ingredient, mesotrione, which has favorable ecotoxicity and human health profiles, compared to many registered herbicides, reducing the herbicide load on the environment. Its mode of action fits well into IPM and resistance-management strategies.

Tenacity is not registered for use in all states; LCOs should check with their state or local extension service prior to buying  the product.

The active ingredient, mesotrione is based on a compound produced by the bottlebrush plant (Callistemon citrinus). Discovered and developed by Syngenta, mesotrione provides systemic pre- and post-emergence control of numerous weeds including nimblewill, chickweed, clover and yellow nutsedge. Additionally, it controls crabgrass both pre- and post-emergence.

Tenacity has been tested and proven acceptable for use on many turf species including the following: Kentucky bluegrass, centipedegrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue.

Madness reigns at Reinders’ 20th conference
Waukesha, wis. – March madness was not only in the NCAA college basketball tournament this year, but was also evident at the 20th Reinders Turf & Irrigation Conference held March 9-10. The show’s theme of “March Turf Madness” applied to both the tradeshow and the weather.

Rain was in the forecast for the first day, but many attendees were surprised to wake up and find several inches of heavy and wet snow on their travels to the Waukesha Expo Center in suburban Milwaukee.

This year Reinders partnered with Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (the MACC Fund) to help raise money for cancer and blood disorder research.

Reinders had a “Turf Madness Double Shootout” basketball game for everyone’s entertainment. Attendees had the opportunity to make a donation to the MACC Fund and compete side by side with their friends and colleagues to see who could score the most baskets in a minute. Everyone who participated had their name entered into a drawing. Jon Cole of Kohler Landscape Co., Kohler, Wis., was the lucky winner.

More than 35 seminars covered topics for everyone in the green industry. Six different educational tracks ran simultaneously to meet the needs of landscape contractors, lawn care operators, golf course superintendents, sports turf managers, equipment mechanics and irrigation contractors.

Fred Yelverton of North Carolina State University informed lawn maintenance professionals about new and innovative weed control technology as he reviewed a variety of products.

Keeping watergardens in balance was discussed by Scott Rhodes of Aquascape. He pointed out that understanding the ecosystem of a pond is the first step in keeping them looking their best. Learning to be proactive with a natural water treatment regime and solving periodic problems that may arise are also key, he said.

The new trend of using LED technology for landscape lighting was explored during a talk by Darin Ayers of FX Luminaire.

Reinders has hosted the conference and tradeshow every other year since 1973. It brings together national speakers and industry professionals and manufacturers.

The next show will be held March 13-14, 2013.

Water Conference slated for July

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The Irrigation Association and the American Society of Irrigation Consultants will partner to present the 2011 Water Conference July 21-22 in Broomfield, Colo.
The third annual conference, titled “Water for the Future: The Role of Smart Irrigation,” is meant to bring together experts and leaders from business, government and academia to debate water and environmental issues, as well as the industry’s role in providing solutions.

“Ultimately, this conference aims to unify our industry professionals in order to pursue more efficient water use in irrigation. ASIC’s partnership is a welcome step toward that unity,” said Deborah Hamlin, IA executive director.

Confirmed speakers include: Dr. Peter Williams, chief technology officer, Big Green Innovations Division, IBM; Liz Gardener, suburban conservation coordinator, Denver Water; Scott Slater, shareholder, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, and Jeff Bruce, Jeffrey L. Bruce & Co.

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