Georgia researchers develop tough turfgrass
Homeowners, turfgrass managers, sod producers and city planners benefit from turf through soil erosion control, water filtration, recreation and aesthetic value. However, ever-changing stresses challenge the sustainability of established turfgrass. Georgia researchers are developing turfgrasses that require less water and nitrogen and are more pest resistant than commonly used turfgrass, which contribute to a healthier environment and afford economic benefits for the growers and their customers.
Current turfgrass breeding efforts by the University of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station in Tifton are focused on developing stress-tolerant grasses that are more sustainable than older varieties. Pesticide applications, including insecticides and fungicides, have been eliminated from routine maintenance programs to better identify varieties with natural resistances or tolerances. Scientists also are developing new zoysiagrasses that are more vigorous, disease tolerant and pest resistant than currently available cultivars. This program encompasses bermudagrass, centipedegrass and zoysiagrass breeding material from the seedling stage to advanced experimental hybrids, which have persisted through rigorous testing for more than a decade. Finally, the turfgrass breeding, physiology and weed sciences research programs are working to further develop unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) identification of weeds in sod production to improve the efficiency of turfgrass certification.
The work builds on 20 years of turfgrass research, which has resulted in the licensing of turf grasses to numerous growers around the globe. TifTuf ranked #1 in the 2013-2018 National Turfgrass Evaluation Program bermudagrass trials. Nearly 70 laboratory, greenhouse and field evaluations are underway to maintain the pipeline that has provided leading turfgrass cultivars for more than a half century.