December 2017

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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www.spor 12 // December 2017 Editor's note: We recently caught up with a few turfgrass breeders and asked a few questions. Thanks to Brian Schwartz, PhD, associate professor, University of Georgia; Steve Reid, chief breeder & research director USA, DLF Pickseed; and Dr. Stacy Bonos, professor, Department of Plant Biology, Rutgers University: Brian Schwartz, PhD Are you always actively breeding some species of turfgrass? I have a 100% turfgrass breeding appointment and am always working on making/evaluating new hybrids. The two breeders before me in Tifton were primarily forage breeders that also gave some attention to turf, but it wasn't their priority. What characteristics are you currently working to improve, in what turfgrasses? I am always working on drought tolerance in bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and centipedegrass; that is my primary focus. We are also working on increasing the recuperative potential in zoysiagrass, as well as disease tolerance. We have been testing the traffi c tolerance of our most elite bermudagrasses and zoysiagrasses each fall for the past several years. I am also trying to develop dwarf bermudagrasses and zoysiagrasses for golf greens. To some degree, I'm trying to reduce the mowing requirements of bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and centipedegrass by developing new hybrids that have less upright growth. What's the hottest topic in turfgrass breeding now? Drought tolerance is a hot topic that receives the most funding. Developing new grasses for golf greens is always talked about, but my program doesn't receive much funding for this. Unfortunately there hasn't been funding to specifi cally work on grasses for sports fi elds, although we think it is very important and try to screen as many hybrids as we can to gauge this trait during the breeding process. Explain how a new cultivar gets to market: breeder, tester, grower, marketer? Perennial grasses usually take some time to properly evaluate. Typically, the grasses developed in Tifton have been tested between 12 and 22 years before release. Our program screens approximately 5,000 new hybrids every year. We research the best hybrids, i.e., those with good initial persistence and uniformity, for many years make observations of drought tolerance, disease resistance, insect tolerance, mowing requirements, and turf quality/ performance. Toward the end of our in- house evaluation process, we typically test the most elite hybrids in many locations across the southern US and the parts of the transition zone. This has been done through the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) as well as with collaborators. When we identify a hybrid that we want to release, the cultivar release committee at the University of Georgia reviews it, and if approved, a bid for license is put forward to the turf industry. If successfully licensed, the new cultivar is expanded by Georgia Seed in a foundation fi eld and then distributed to the licensee in larger quantities. At this point, it is up to the new licensee to produce, market, and sell the new hybrid. If their business plan included fi nding other growers across the US or world, then they also work on that. What's the biggest change in turfgrass breeding over the past 5 years? The biggest change in the process of warm-season turfgrass breeding over the past several years has probably been the collaborative efforts between many turfgrass breeders that are a result of consistent federal funding during the recent past. The USDA-SCRI projects that have jointly funded turfgrass breeding, research, and extension for both warm- and cool-season turfgrass has allowed wide-spread evaluation of many new hybrids in environments in Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Three new cultivars have been released as a result of this work so far, and there are plans for more to become available in the near future. Turfgrass breeders are working for you Dr. Brian Schwartz, right, associate professor at the University of Georgia, with his predecessor and mentor, Dr. Wayne Hanna.

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