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New Environmentally Friendly Turfgrass Ready for Golf Courses / May 1, 1998 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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TifEagle bermuda grass

New Environmentally Friendly Turfgrass Ready for Golf Courses

By Jan Suszkiw
May 1, 1998

TifEagle, a new bermuda turfgrass, debuts this summer on golf courses in Georgia and other southern states. TifEagle is the work of Wayne Hanna, a plant geneticist for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Tifton, Ga. Hanna develops new varieties of high quality turf and forage grass that tolerate drought or resist pests so fewer chemical controls are needed.

Short, narrow leaves and a dense, fast-spreading root system make TifEagle ideal for use on putting greens. It also withstands the stress of routine mowing at heights of three millimeters or less. That’s not something many southern putting green varieties are generally known for, including the bermuda grass standard TifDwarf. The credit goes to Hanna’s efforts to breed a warm-season grass with short stolons--stem-like structures that produce shoots and leaves.

Most important, TifEagle’s leaf canopy stays lush and carpet-like, ensuring a golfer’s ball will roll quickly in the direction it’s putted. That same canopy also shades out pesky algae and weeds like crabgrass. This helps reduce the need for herbicide applications that can endanger groundwater.

ARS collaborators at the Georgia Seed Commission and the University of Georgia Research Foundation, both in Athens, are now propagating TifEagle. They’ll license foundation seed to certified sprig producers.

To develop TifEagle, Hanna subjected portions of the bermuda grass TifWay 2 to gamma radiation. He then selected offspring plants with mutations for short stolons. TifEagle was his top pick of 48 mutant plants.

Since 1991, about three dozen university scientists and golf superintendents have helped Hanna evaluate TifEagle on both experimental plots and commercial greens. Encouraged by the results, he applied for a patent. This will help preserve the genetic purity of TifEagle’s seed as it goes into commercial production.

A more detailed story appears in the April issue of Agricultural Research, ARS’ monthly publication. It can be viewed on the World Wide Web at:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/may98/gras0598.htm

Scientific contact: Wayne Hanna, USDA-ARS Forage and Turf Grass Research Unit, Tifton, Ga. (912) 391-3701, forage@tifton.cpes.peachnet.edu.

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