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Bermudagrass Variety Evaluations

Posted Oct. 1, 2001

Bermudagrass variety evaluation has been an integral part of the Noble Research Institute's forage testing program for many years. I would like to present a brief production update of current trials.

The old variety test includes 11 sprigged varieties or experimental strains and was established in May 1996. The test has been clipped four times during the 2001 growing season: May 15, June 8, July 11 and August 14. Forage yields have been moderately good through August, with an average total of 6,066 pounds per acre for the eleven entries, of which 59 percent was harvested by June 8. Current production totals are already about five percent above the entire production of the 2000 growing season. Assuming favorable moisture and temperatures this fall, we anticipate additional clippings.

Forage distribution and total production in dry pounds per acre for each variety and strain are recorded in table 1.

This season, Russell and Coastal have been the most productive into the late summer. Until this past winter, mild temperatures have prevailed since the initiation of the test and have not seriously cold-tested Tifton 85, Jiggs, and Russell. Over the life of the test, neither Jiggs nor Russell has been as productive under the mild conditions as Tifton 85, Coastal, and Midland 99. The droughts of the last three seasons have likely caused some reduction in stand vigor in many of the varieties. This season, however, the plants were also exposed to cold, wet weather during the winter, which probably weakened or killed some of the stand. Some varieties, particularly Tifton 85 and Jiggs, did not have the early spring vigor that we have seen previously, which may be the first indication that they do not have adequate cold hardiness for long-term persistence in southern Oklahoma. However, Tifton 85 recovered nicely in the spring and produced excellent forage yields in the June 8 clipping.

There has been recent interest in bermudagrass established from seed rather than sprigs. Seeded varieties can be less expensive and can be used on smaller acreages and in areas where a good seedbed is not feasible or economical. Several seeded varieties are being marketed. Some are selected lines and others are mixtures of varieties or lines. In May 2000, we initiated a study in Ardmore to compare the growth and persistence of ten seeded varieties and mixtures with that of three sprigged varieties, Tifton 44, Midland 99, and the experimental strain 74x12-6. The seeded varieties and mixtures were planted at five pounds per acre on a prepared seedbed. Last year was an establishment year and no forage yields were taken from the trial. However, the plots were mowed off in late summer and early fall to promote stand establishment. By the end of fall, stands were good to excellent throughout the test.

The seeded test has been clipped for forage yield four times this season: May 25, June 26, July 20 and August 23. Overall, the grasses in this test were slower to initiate growth this spring than the old established test. There was a larger percentage of weakened and dead plants among the seeded varieties following the cold, wet winter, and as a result plants did not make a typical spring growth spurt. Stands have remained variable throughout the season, resulting in more variable forage yields within and among the seeded varieties. Total production in dry pounds per acre accumulated for each entry is shown in table 2. Note that the average production of the seeded varieties is less than the sprigged, which is typical.

Each test received 300 pounds of total nitrogen per acre during the growing season. Starter nitrogen was applied in mid-April at 150 pounds per acre. Additional top-dress applications of 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre were made following the first, second, and fourth clipping dates of each trial.

Note: Dr. Baker's detailed forage evaluation reports may be found in our Agricultural Information Index.