Tifton 44 is the best of several thousand F1 hybrid bermudagrasses screened for winter hardiness at the Georgia Mountain Experiment Station, Blairsville, GA. It is a cross between Coastal bermuda and a bermudagrass collected in Berlin, Germany in 1966. Tifton 44 is the most winter hardy of the Tifton hybrid bermudagrasses, thanks to its Berlin parent that will survive in Michigan.
Tifton 44 bermudagrass is a fine stemmed F1 hybrid that must be propagated vegetatively. Compared with Coastal bermuda, Tifton 44 is darker green, has finer stems that cure faster when cut for hay, has more rhizomes, is a little shorter, and makes a denser sod. It starts growth earlier in the spring than most bermudagrasses tested at Tifton. Tifton 44 is more resistant to foliage diseases than Midland bermudagrass.
Tifton 44 has been tested at Tifton, GA in various ways since 1972. In a replicated clipping test established in 1972, it yielded as well as Coastal bermuda for the period 1973-75. In another clipping test established in 1974, Tifton 44 produced nearly 1000 lb/A more dry matter than Coastal and 3000 lb/A more than Midland. IVDMD analyses of all clippings from these tests showed Tifton 44 to be 5 or 6% more digestible than Coastal.
Average daily gains (ADGs) of steers continuously grazing replicated pastures of Tifton 44 and Coastal bermudagrass for 2 years were 1.8 and 1.5 lb., respectively. The 2-year ADGs of 30 steers consuming pellets were 1.7 and 1.4 lb., respectively. Thus Tifton 44 gave 19% better ADGs than Coastal when grazed and 19% better ADGs when fed as pellets. ADGs of Tifton 44 and Coastal have been the same at the beginning of the grazing season but the ADGs of Tifton 44 stand up increasingly better as the season progresses.
In a 56-day feeding trial with 550 lb. heifers, 5-week old Tifton 44 hay without supple- ment had an in vitro digestibility of 65% and gave ADGs of 1.2 lb. The hay to grain ratio for this test was 9:1.
When well-established (with many underground rhizomes), Tifton 44 has survived the winters as far north as Stillwater, OK; Fayetteville, AR; Simpson, IL; Raleigh, NC; Princeton and Quicksand, KY. To reduce possible loss of stand in severe winters:
- Plant as early as possible (before June 1).
- Increase the quantity of sprigs planted.
- Plant in fertilized soil - 500 lb/A & 5-10-15 + 100 lb/A/N when stolons appear.
- Spray with 2 lb/A of 2,4-D immediately after planting to keep weed seeds from germinating. Spray again in 30 days to continue weed control.
- Keep fertilizer nutrients especially potassium adequate.
- Apply no nitrogen after mid-August and no more than 250 lb/A/N/yr.
- Cut hay no later than September 15.
- Leave some stubble to keep plants dormant and improve winter survival.
The early growth of Tifton 44 has been well demonstrated throughout the South. Reports from 30 cooperators in 14 states indicate that agronomically Tifton 44 is superior to Midland and about equal to Coastal bermudagrass.
Foundation stock of Tifton 44 can be obtained from the Georgia Seed Development Commission, Athens, GA (706)542-5640).
Tifton 44 bermuda will grow on any reasonably well-drained soil from sands to heavy clays if properly limed and fertilized. It can be established from freshly cut tops (8 weeks or older) as well as sprigs if good soil moisture can be maintained. For best results:
- Plant sprigs in moist, well-prepared, fertilized (500 lbs/A of complete fertilizer such as a 5-10-15) weed-free soil from April to July 1. Keep soil fallowed and plant immediately after a rain or turn and disk soil just ahead of planting and run the tractor over the soil immediately after planting to firm the soil and help hold the moisture around the sprigs.
- Plant only pure, live certified sprigs as soon as possible after digging or cutting.
- Set sprigs or tops erect with part deep to get moisture and the tip showing above soil.
- Control weeds. Apply 2,4-D (2 lb/A) immediately after sprigging. It will control both grass and broadleafed weeds if applied before seeds germinate. A second application one month later is desirable to allow more time for the bermudagrass to become established.
- Fertilize by broadcasting 100 lbs. N/A as soon as runners develop.
- Graze lightly late in the season. Leave some top growth to improve winter survival.
- (Winter) Test soil and lime to keep pH above 5.0 and correct severe deficiencies. Use dolomitic lime to supply essential magnesium and calcium and correct the soil pH.
- (February) Burn when first shoots emerge to control weeds, spittlebug and other pests.
- (Mid-March) Broadcast first application of N-P-K.
- Fertilize only enough to produce the grazing (30 to 200 lbs. N/A) or forage for hay or silage (200 to 400 lbs. N/A) needed.
- Pound for pound of N, ammonium nitrate and nitrate of soda are best. Ammonium sulfate requires 3 times as much lime to correct acid residue. Urea N is only about 80% as good because of N loss to air from urease activity. Apply ammonium nitrate (50 lbs N/A) to overcome the lag in response to anhydrous ammonia that can cut hay yields a half ton or more.
- P & K are essential. A 4-1-2 ratio of N-P205-K20 usually supplies adequate amount of P & K for grazing if the ratio is used everytime the grass is fertilized. If all the P & K is applied in the spring, the grass will take up more than it needs and may be short late in the season. A 16-4-8 or similar blend will make a very efficient fertilizer for bermudagrass.
- Sulfur is an essential nutrient for all plants. Blending a small part of the N from ammonium sulfate will supply the sulfur needed.
- Minor elements are rarely needed.
- Graze early and close (leaving less than 4 in of growth) for maximum carrying capacity.
- Graze light enough to allow a little grass to accumulate for maximum daily gains.
- Fertilize and mow to keep a surplus of young, succulent grass for milking cows.
- Carry less than 4 animals per acre to keep parasites down and get the best gains.
- Fertilize with 200 to 400 lbs. of N/A plus adequate P & K (a 4-1-3 ratio may be needed if hay is cut every 4 to 5 wks).
- Take first cut when grass is about 18 in high and cut every 4 to 6 wks thereafter.
- Use the calendar and never let more than 6 wks elapse between cuts. Six-week cuts give maximum annual yields. Hay 4, 8 and 13 wks old gives daily gains of 1.2, .9 and 0 lbs/day.
- Avoid rain, if possible. Dry hay rapidly with tedder after rain to reduce nutritive loss.
Glenn W. Burton (Retired)
Last revised (April 2003)