UGA Tifton Campus turfgrass breeder Brian Schwartz (right) confers with veteran turfgrass researcher Wayne Hanna at the UGA Tifton turf plots. Photo by Corey Nolen
Research Team Develops Drought-hardy Grass in TifTuf
The newest turfgrass variety released by the University of Georgia Tifton Campus withstands drought better than any other bermudagrass today, according to Brian Schwartz, turf breeder at UGA Tifton.
Finding a highly drought-tolerant variety was one of Schwartz’s goals when he arrived at UGA in 2009. Sure enough, Schwartz’s first turf release fits that criterion; TifTuf can use up to 38 percent less water than other turfgrasses bred at UGA.
“It’s at least as good as some of the other varieties, such as Tifway and TifGrand, when conditions are good. But when the stress happens, the others fail to some degree and this one hangs in there pretty well,” he said.
Schwartz emphasized that his team’s objective in researching different grasses was not to find the prettiest grass, but to find the toughest.
“That’s what we really try to do here at UGA Tifton – take away the fertilizer, take away the water, take away the pesticides and see which grasses remain. TifTuf was always at the top,” Schwartz said.
There are already 31 licensed farms growing TifTuf across the southern U.S., according to Schwartz.
“One Georgia-based company predicts they will have 1,600 acres of TifTuf available by next year,” Schwartz said. “To have a company that is growing so much, so fast is a real testament to the support of our program, and to the grass in how it’s a next-generation leap into drought tolerance.”
TifTuf is featured prominently on the UGA Tifton Campus. It surrounds the newly renovated Tift Building at the front of campus and can be seen at the Future Farmstead, a program in energy efficiency and sustainability brought to life via a specially designed house located on campus.