It's rare that a new grass comes along that revolutionizes the turf industry, but that's what we may well have with a new bermuda grass called TifGrand.
Many Augustans have bemuda in their yards. For at least 20 years, bermuda has been the choice of builders when sodding around new construction, usually a variety known at Tifton 419. Bermuda is always the grass of choice for the builder because it's the cheapest.
With its dark green color, drought tolerance and toughness, it has been a good choice for a lawn, but the limiting factor has always been its lack of shade tolerance. Other bermuda grasses need at least eight hours of full sun to look their best, but TifGrand Bermuda produces a healthy turf in areas with less than half of that.
TifGrand was put in trials from Arizona to the Carolinas and performed well under partial shade all day or heavy shade for much of the day, and in full sun. It's touted as a boon to turfgrass managers on golf courses with a lot of trees. Many currently use zoysiagrass on tee boxes, since it is much more shade tolerant than bermuda, but zoysia does not recover from injury nearly as quickly as bermuda.
The new bermuda variety would also perform well in sports stadiums with retractable roofs, which limits the amount of sunshine the grass receives.
It is recommended that you sod the grass in shaded areas as opposed to sprigging. Any grass, even St. Augustine, our most shade-tolerant grass, has a hard time covering shaded areas when sprigged or plugged.
TifGrand will look very nice at a lower than 1-inch mowing height, exhibiting dense growth and a dark green color. It will also look nice at other heights. It was evaluated from less than 1/4 inch to 2 inches.
Because of its naturally dense growth, TifGrand does not require heavy doses of nitrogen. A multiyear test in Roswell, Ga., has shown that nitrogen applications of 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet annually produce excellent turfgrass at a mowing height of 1.5 inches. This is approximately half the nitrogen recommended for a highly managed turf of Tifton 419.
If using 2 to 3 pounds of nitrogen during the season, it might be best to bag the clippings from the lawn because this grass is so dense and vigorous that there could be heavy thatch buildup. You might want to apply just 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen for the growing season. At the higher nitrogen rates, core aeration would be a good management practice.
TifGrand has been licensed by the University of Georgia Foundation, which owns the rights, to New Concept Turf. The Turfgrass Group, of Fort Valley, Ga., will oversee sod production. It was licensed to a selected number of growers last summer, so it should be available in the general market this year.
REACH SID MULLIS, THE DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA EXTENSION SERVICE OFFICE FOR RICHMOND COUNTY, AT (706) 821-2349 OR SMULLIS@UGA.EDU.