Tifton Turfgrass Breeding
Turfgrass breeding efforts at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus are focused on developing stress tolerant grasses that are more sustainable than older varieties. Recent evaluations using rain-out and shade structures, non-irrigated plots, and reduced fertilizer input have been prioritized. Pesticide applications, including insecticides and fungicides, have been eliminated from routine maintenance programs to better identify varieties with natural resistances or tolerances. Turfgrasses developed in Tifton during the past 15 years have been licensed to numerous growers around the globe. There are currently 22 farms producing TifGrand bermudagrass on a little less than 1000 acres. TifTuf bermudagrass was released in 2014 on the basis of its drought tolerance, wear resistance, persistence in the shade and widespread adaptability. It is already grown by 51 sod producers across the United States and internationally on approximately 5,000 acres with continued producer interest for expansion. Also, TifTuf is currently ranked #1 in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program bermudagrass trials. Efforts have been initiated at UGA to develop new zoysiagrasses that are more vigorous, disease tolerant, and pest resistant than currently available cultivars. Bladerunner Farms has allowed our program to access to their “world” zoysiagrass germplasm collection to make this endeavor more feasible. Currently, the UGA program encompasses bermudagrass, centipedegrass and zoysiagrass breeding material from the seedling stage to advanced experimental hybrids that have persisted through rigorous testing for over a decade. Over 72 laboratory, greenhouse, and field evaluations are underway to maintain the pipeline that has provided leading turfgrass cultivars for over a half century. Collaboration with other institutions during the past few years and has included work with Purdue University, the University of Tennessee and the University of Arizona to test advanced turfgrasses for stresses not found in Tifton.