Bermudagrasses (Cynodon species), also called wiregrass, are planted throughout South Carolina. They are used primarily on golf courses, athletic fields, tennis courts, bowling greens and high-quality lawns. Bermudagrass may also be used for roadside bank stabilization and pastures either as a single species stand, or mixed with other low-maintenance grasses.
They are primarily used in areas where fine-textured, high-quality turf is essential for sports activities and when maintenance budgets are adequate. On the lower management scale, bermudagrass is also used in areas where a vegetative cover is needed to prevent erosion, but establishment and long-term management techniques are limited.
Bermudagrass is native to Africa where it thrives on fertile soils. Today, most of the bermudagrasses used for turf are hybrids of two different Cynodon species: C. dactylon and C. transvaalensis.
Bermudagrass produces a vigorous, light to dark green, dense turf that is well adapted to most soils and climatic regions in the southern United States. Bermudagrass has excellent wear, drought and salt tolerance and is a good choice for oceanfront property. It establishes rapidly and is competitive against weeds and, depending on the cultivar, is available as seed, sod or sprigs.
In most areas of South Carolina, bermudagrass becomes dormant (turn brown) in cold weather. Overseeding in fall with ryegrass is a common practice to maintain year-round green color. See HGIC 1206, Overseeding with Ryegrass for information on overseeding warm-season turfgrasses. Bermudagrasses are susceptible to several nematode, insect, and disease problems.
Bermudagrasses have very poor shade tolerance and should not be grown underneath tree canopies or building overhangs.
They spread very rapidly by both above- (stolons) and below- (rhizomes) ground runners that are very difficult to control within flowerbeds, walks and borders. Due to its rapid growth tendency, thatch buildup can become a problem in bermudagrass. A reel mower should also be used to produce the highest possible quality turf stand, although a rotary mower will work fine as long as the blades are sharpened on a regular basis.
During periods of rapid growth, or under an intensive management program, a minimum of twice weekly mowing may be necessary to prevent scalping.
There are several bermudagrass cultivars being used for turf (see Table 1). Currently, improved seeded bermudagrass cultivars are being aggressively developed. Most seed is available with the hull removed (hulled) or with the hull remaining (unhulled). Hulled seed germinates faster but costs more; unhulled seed lasts longer in unfavorable weather such as fall, winter or early spring, before germinating. Only some cultivars are commercially available from turf producers.
This is the bermudagrass traditionally available for establishment by seed. However, it generally produces a looser netted turfgrass with a wider leaf than other bermudagrass types. The common bermudagrasses also have a lower shoot density and light green color, and for these reasons is less desirable than hybrid or improved common bermudagrass cultivars. Common bermudagrass is often planted in seed mixes with bahiagrass or tall fescue for roadsides or reclamation sites.
The improved common type seeded varieties (e.g., Bradley, Burning Tree, Cheyenne, Jackpot, Mirage, Primavera, Princess, Pyramid, Sahara, Savannah, Sonesta, Sultan, Sundance, Sundevil I & II, SunStar, Sydney, Yuma and others) are darker green, deeper-rooted, medium-fine textured, and moderately denser as compared to common bermudagrass. They are general-purpose, turf-type bermudagrasses, which are used for golf course roughs and fairways, lawns, parks, roadsides and sports turf.
Use them in areas where improved characteristics are desired, but where quality and level of maintenance are lower than the sterile hybrid varieties. Cold tolerance the first year after seeding also is a concern with seeded varieties. OKS91-11 is a seeded variety from Oklahoma State University that is noted for its cold tolerance. Most of today’s bermudagrass seed is produced in western Arizona, the Imperial Valley of California, and Oklahoma.
One issue that has been an ongoing problem for the improved varieties of bermudagrass is the chance that a selected improved variety may revert back to its genetic parents and lose its improved characteristics.
The hybrid bermudagrass varieties are generally developed by crossing two bermudagrass species for varietal production rather than simply by natural selection. Because of these interspecies crosses, the hybrid bermudagrass varieties produce sterile seed, and therefore must be propagated through vegetative means being sprigging, sodding or plugging.
Hybrid bermudagrass is typically used on sports fields, golf courses, and highly maintained lawns. The management inputs needed to maintain an acceptable hybrid lawn is significantly more than that needed for a common or improved common bermudagrass lawn. With proper cultural practices implemented, the hybrid bermudagrass varieties will produce a higher quality lawn with fewer disease problems than in the other bermudagrasses.
Within the hybrid bermudagrass family there are also differences in growth habits. For example, Tifway 419 has an upright growth habit making it ideal for sports fields and golf course fairways. These grasses are also easier for the home lawn enthusiast to manage.
Bermudagrasses used as golf course greens are termed as dwarf or ultra-dwarf varieties. These grasses are established for very specific uses and can be much more difficult to maintain unless expensive reel-type mowing equipment is used. Under the high management program needed for the dwarf bermudagrass varieties, pest problems may also occur, which requires the turf manager to be well versed in pest management control.
Improved Common Varieties
Several readily available common and improved common bermudagrasses that can be seeded are listed below. However, this is not an inclusive listing of bermudagrass varieties available.
Princess 77: Princess 77 is a one of the newer “high quality” fairway type certified bermudagrasses that was developed out of a private breeding program. Its dense texture and good color, coupled with low mowing heights make it a popular choice for warm season areas of the Southern US states for sports fields, parks, stadiums, golf fairways and home lawns.
Yukon: Yukon bermudagrass is a new highly ranked certified turfgrass that also has good cold tolerance. It exhibits excellent cold tolerance and superb turf quality. Yukon is the golf course manager’s top choice for excellent tees, fairways and roughs throughout the transition, tropical and sub-tropical zones. It also is excellent as a lawn or turfgrass for home owners. It grows well from Florida to North of Tennessee. Yukon is highly ranked in the NTEP trials.
Riviera: Riviera Bermudagrass is a certified turfgrass that produces a superior turf quality bermudagrass with excellent winter hardiness. Riviera bermudagrass establishes fast from seed and has improved resistance to spring dead spot. Highest quality-rated Riviera bermudagrass ranks first overall for resistance to winter kill, drought tolerance, color, spring green-up, and percent of living ground cover in spring.
LaPaloma: LaPaloma exhibits short plant height, which is a distinguishing characteristic among available seed propagated varieties. This bermudagrass is noted for good stolon length and for rapid cover and fill in on planting sites. This can be important for earlier opening and use of planted areas. LaPaloma has a finer leaf texture than most bermudagrass varieties, improved cold tolerance, and has shown better persistence under low light conditions caused by overcast, cloudy conditions, or shade from trees and structures. It is good for golf tees, fairways, roughs, sports fields and high quality lawns. It is included in bermudagrass blends, such as La Prima and LaPrima XD.
Sahara (SR-9554): Sahara is a dense turf with beautiful green color. It is wear and drought tolerant. Sahara is economical, easily seeded, and a good choice for use in lawns and excellent for athletic fields, parks areas. It needs a very low amount of fertilizer to grow well.
Several readily available hybrid bermudagrasses for vegetative planting are listed below. However, this is not an inclusive listing of bermudagrass varieties available.
GN-1: GN-1 is a recent introduction by Greg Norman evaluated as CT-2. It is a hybrid bermudagrass with darker green color than Tifway bermudagrass and similar leaf density, but with a wider leaf texture. GN-1 is vegetatively established because seed is unavailable. It’s aggressive lateral growth habit allows GN-1 to recover quickly from damage and also “stripes ” better from mowing during summer than most other bermudagrass selections.
Midway, Midiron, Midlawn, Midfield: These cultivars were released by the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station predominantly for their cold tolerance. They are presumed hybrids between cold tolerant C. dactylon and C. transvaalensis. These medium-textured grasses produce few seed heads and are used for lawns, fairways and roughs where winterkill is a common problem.
Tiflawn: Tiflawn was released in 1952 and is noted for its medium dark green color, medium fine texture and shoot density, vigorous growth rate and establishment, and moderately low growing height. Tiflawn has excellent drought and wear tolerance as well as exceptional recuperative potential. It is widely grown on sports fields, recreational areas and lawns; however, it is susceptible to bermudagrass mites.
TifGrand (PP21017): This is a fine-textured bermudagrass (finer than Tifway) that better maintains its dark green colored leaf blades under reduced nitrogen programs than other bermudagrass varieties. It is vigorous growing and has improved shade tolerance. TifGrand was released in 2010, and may be used in residential lawns, sports fields and parks. It is more resistant to spring dead spot disease than common bermudagrass and exhibits non-preference to mole crickets. It is a seed and pollen sterile hybrid. Mow TifGrand at 1 to 2 inches height.
TifSport: This 1997 bermudagrass release from the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Georgia is an induced gamma-irradiated mutant from Midiron bermudagrass and is reported to have superior cold tolerance and desirable turf texture and density. This grass has a texture and color similar to Tifway and Tifway II and should be used in similar sites such as fairways and tees. It has shown good winter hardiness in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. It produces no seed, therefore, must be vegetatively propagated.
Tifway: Tifway is a dark green bermudagrass with medium texture and high shoot density. Tifway has better tolerance to pest problems than Tifgreen. Tifway is used in areas of moderate maintenance, such as fairways, sports fields, and higher maintained lawns. Tifway is currently considered the best overall bermudagrass selection for high-quality lawns, sports fields and golf course fairways.
Tifway II: Tifway II is a mutant of Tifway that was released in 1984 for its improved frost and nematode tolerance. It has a similar appearance to Tifway with increased shoot density and seed heads. Tifway II can be used in moderate maintenance situations. Tifway and Tifway II make beautiful yards if adequate time, as well as machine and labor resources, are dedicated to their establishment and upkeep.
Excerpted from Southern Lawns: Best Management Practices for the Selection, Establishment and Maintenance of Southern Lawngrasses, EC 707, 2003
Table 1. Characteristics of Popular Improved Bermudagrass Varieties (From Southern Lawn).
|Baby||no||medium fine||medium dark||golf fairways/tees/lawns|
|Burning Tree||yes||medium||medium dark||fairways/tees/lawns|
|Cheyenne||yes||medium coarse||light||golf roughs/lawns|
|NuMex Sahara||yes||medium coarse||light||roughs/lawns|
|OKS 91-11||yes||medium||medium dark||fairways/roughs/lawns|
|Santa Ana||no||medium||blue green||fairways/roughs/lawns|
|Sundevil I & II||yes||medium||light||roughs/lawns|
|Tifton 10||no||coarse||blue green||roughs/lawns|
|Windsor Green||no||medium fine||dark||fairways/roughs/lawns|
Originally published 01/99