New Bermudagrass Cultivars for Florida?

A.E. Dudeck
University of Florida, Gainesville
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Common bermudagrass, Cynodon dactylon, and its interspecific hybrids with C. transvaalensis are the most popular turfgrasses for golf courses, sports turfs, as well as for lawns and roadsides throughout the South (Turgeon 1996). First recorded release of an improved bermudagrass cultivar was in the early 1940's with release of 'U-3' bermudagrass by the United States Golf Association in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture (Hanson 1965). Forty-seven bermudagrass cultivars are listed in chronological order from 1947 to present that were officially released or are in final testing stages by their respective sponsoring agency. Most bermudagrass cultivars are vegetatively propagated by either plugs, sod, or sprigs. First improved seeded bermudagrass was the 'Guyman' cultivar released in 1982 by Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station. Until that time, tetraploid bermudagrass (2n=36) was the only seeded bermudagrass being sold in the trade as 'Arizona common' or simply 'common' bermudagrass. Breeding for improved seed propagated bermudagrass cultivars began in earnest during the 1980's and continues today.

The most widely recognized warm-season turfgrass breeder in the South is Dr. Glenn W. Burton. During the decade of the 1950's, Dr. Burton released several interspecific hybrids such as 'Tifgreen' and 'Tifway', which are sterile grasses (2n=27). 'Tifdwarf' bermudagrass is a natural mutation selected out of 'Tifgreen'. These 30 to 40 year-old grasses are still golf course/sports turf standards of today. Dr. Burton crossed common bermudagrass (2n=36) with African bermudagrass (2n=18) to produce the 'Tif' line of sterile hybrid bermudagrasses (2n=27). Examples of man-made sterile, triploid hybrids are 'Tiflawn', 'Tiffine', 'Tifgreen', 'Tifgreen II', 'Tifway II', and 'TifEagle'. The latter cultivar was developed by Dr. Wayne Hanna at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, GA. Mother Nature also produced and continues to produce natural sterile, triploid hybrids, such as 'Bayshore', 'Champion', 'Everglades 1', 'FloraDwarf', 'Midfield', 'Midiron', 'Midlawn', 'Midway', 'Pee Dee', 'Tifdwarf', and 'Tifway'.

With the advent of many new vegetative bermudagrass cultivars and increased breeding and development of seeded bermudagrass, a series of trials were conducted at the University of Florida, G.C. Horn Memorial Turfgrass Field Laboratory, Gainesville, FL. The objective of these studies was to identify best performing bermudagrass cultivars that are adapted to North Florida growing conditions.

In 1993, we established 15 commercially available bermudagrass cultivars that were seed propagated along with several experimental seed-propagated lines and compared them to standard cultivars of 'Arizona common, 'FLoraTeX', 'Tifgreen', and 'Tifway' (Table 2). The study terminated in 1996 after three full growing seasons. As per University of Florida recommendations, four to six fertilizer applications per year were applied during the study. All plots were mowed at a height of 0.75 inches three times per week, and clippings were returned. Supplemental irrigation was applied as needed.

'Sundance' bermudagrass, which is propagated by seed, had best average turf quality score of 7.8 (visually rated on scale of 1 to 9 where 9=best) and was equal in turf quality to that of 'Tifway' bermudagrass after three years in the field (Dudeck 1996a). Bermudagrass cultivars that produced good turf quality with an average score of 5.9 included 'Del Sol', 'FLoraTeX', 'FMC-66', 'FMC-88', 'Pyramid', 'Sunstar', and 'Tifgreen'. Cultivars having poorest turf quality scores, which averaged 3.1, included 'Arizona common', 'Cheyenne', 'NuMex Sahara', and 'Yuma Dwarf'.

From 1992 to 1996, we cooperated in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) bermudagrass trial (Table 2). This test included 26 entries and was conducted at 22 locations in 16 southern states. Two to three fertilizer applications were made per year at our Gainesville test site. Plots were mowed at a height of 0.75 inches three times per week, and clippings were returned. Supplemental irrigation was applied as needed.

'Tifway' bermudagrass was the only cultivar with best turf quality, which averaged 7.5, after three years of growth at Gainesville (Dudeck 1996b). Grasses having good turf quality scores, which averaged 6.0, were 'Baby', 'FloraDwarf', 'Midiron', 'Midlawn', 'Texturf 10', and 'Tifgreen'. Grasses having poor turf quality with an average score of 4.8 included 'Arizona common', 'Cheyenne', 'Guymon', 'Jackpot', 'Midfield', 'Mirage', 'NuMex Sahara', 'OKS 91-11', 'Primavera', 'Sonesta', 'Sultan', and 'Sundevil'.

An earlier NTEP bermudagrass trial was conducted from 1986-1991 in which 28 entries were tested at 22 locations in 14 southern states (Table 2). Our Gainesville test received three to five fertilizer applications per year. Plots were mowed at a height of 1.0 inch three times per week, and clippings were returned. Supplemental irrigation was applied as needed.

Grasses having best average turf quality scores, which averaged 6.9 after three years, included 'MS-Choice', 'MS-Pride', 'Tifway', and 'Tifway II' (Dudeck 1991). Grasses having good turf quality scores, which averaged 6.4, included 'FLoraTeX', 'MS-Express', 'Texturf 10', 'Tifgreen', and 'Tufcote'. Grasses having poor turf quality scores, which averaged 5.8, included 'Arizona common', 'Guymon', 'Midiron', 'NuMex Sahara', 'Quickstand', and 'Vamont'.

Future bermudagrasses, which are on the immediate horizon, include new ultra dwarf cultivars of 'Champion', FloraDwarf', 'MS-Supreme', and 'TifEagle' (Figure 1). New fairway/sports turf cultivars include 'GN-1' and 'Tift 94'. All are currently under test at Gainesville and other locations throughout the South. Most breeders are now making exclusive releases of new, proprietary grasses that, if vegetatively propagated, are being patented or, if seed propagated, are being protected by Plant Variety Protection. Emphasis has indeed shifted to seed-propagated bermudagrass in that the recent 1997 NTEP bermudagrass trial has 18 seeded entries but only 10 vegetative entries. Seeded bermudagrasses will continue to be developed that will rival or exceed existing vegetative standards in the next few years.

References Cited

  • Dudeck, A.E. 1991. Bermudagrass performance in North Florida. p. 19-20. In T.E. Freeman (ed.) Turfgrass Res. in Florida. IFAS Tech. Rep., March 1991.
  • Dudeck, A.E. 1996a. Home Lawn/Fairway bermudagrass trials. p. 37-43. In J.L. Cisar (ed.) Turfgrass Res. in Florida. IFAS Tech. Rep., March 1996.
  • Dudeck, A.E. 1996b. NTEP bermudagrass trials in North Florida. p. 26-33. In J.L. Cisar (ed.) Turfgrass Res. in Florida. IFAS Tech. Rep., March 1996.
  • Hanson, A.A. 1965. Grass varieties in the United States. USDA-ARS Agric. Handb. 170.
  • Turgeon, A.J. 1996. Turfgrass Management. 4th ed. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Table 1. Chronological development of officially released bermudagrass cultivars by sponsoring agency and method of propagation.

Date Cultivar Propagation Developed by
1947 U-3 Vegetative ARS-USDA
1952 Tiflawn Vegetative GA AES
1953 Tiffine Vegetative GA AES
1956 Sunturf Vegetative AL AES
1956 Tifgreen Vegetative GA AES
1957 Texturf 1 Vegetative TX AES
1957 Texturf 10 Vegetative TX AES
1960 Bayshore Vegetative FL AES
1960 Tifway Vegetative GA AES
1962 Everglades 1 Vegetative FL AES
1962 Ormond Vegetative FL AES
1962 Tufcote Vegetative MD AES
1965 Midway Vegetative KS AES
1965 Tifdwarf Vegetative GA AES
1967 Pee Dee Vegetative SC AES
1971 Midiron Vegetative KS AES
1981 Tifway II Vegetative GA AES
1982 Guymon Seed OK AES
1983 Tifgreen II Vegetative GA AES
1986 Vamont Vegetative VA AES
1987 Cheyenne Seed Jacklin/Pennington
1987 NuMex Sahara Seed NM AES
1988 Tifton 10 Vegetative GA AES
1989 Primavera Seed Farmers Marketing
1991 Midfield Vegetative KS-OK AES
1991 Midlawn Vegetative KS-OK AES
1992 Mirage Seed International Seed Co.
1992 Sonesta Seed Farmers Marketing
1992 Sultan Seed Seeds West, Inc.
1992 Sundevil Seed Medalist America
1993 Del Sol Seed GreenSeed Co.
1993 Pyramid Seed International Seed Co.
1993 Quickstand Vegetative KY AES
1993 Sundance Seed Lesco, Inc.
1993 Sunstar Seed Lesco, Inc.
1993 Yuma Dwarf Seed Pennington Seed Co.
1994 FLoraTeX Vegetative FL AES
1994 Jackpot Seed Jacklin
1995 FloraDwarf Vegetative FL AES
1995 GN-1 Vegetative Greg Norman Turf
1995 MS-Choice Vegetative MS AES
1995 MS-Express Vegetative MS AES
1995 MS-Pride Vegetative MS AES
1995 Tift 94 Vegetative GA AES
1996 Baby Vegetative Bladerunner Farms
1996 OKS 91-11 Seed OK AES
1996 TifEagle Vegetative GA AES

AES=Agricultural Experiment Station Table 2. Relative ranking of selected bermudagrass cultivars based on turf quality after three years in separate field trials at Gainesville, FL.

Rank 1993-96 NTEP 92-96 NTEP 86-91
Best Sundance
Tifway MS-Choice
Tifway II
Good Del Sol
Texturf 10
Texturf 10
Poor Arizona common
NuMex Sahara
Yuma Dwarf
Arizona common
NuMex Sahara
OKS 91-11
Arizona common
NuMex Sahara