Spring 1987 // Volume 25 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW1

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Teamwork Pays


Donald M. Ball
Extension Agronomist-Forage Crops

Ronald L. Shumack
Extension Horticulturist

Robert A. Burdett
Extension Agronomist-Seeds

Auburn University
Auburn, Alabama

Bermudagrass has long been recognized as a valuable forage grass in the deep South. However, the initial introduction of improved varieties has typically been slow and difficult. Because they must be vegetatively propagated, few farmers have the expertise or equipment to do a good job of producing certified sprigs. The result has often been a strong demand for planting material of new varieties, but a lack of ready availability. The economics of supply and demand frequently resulted in exorbitant planting material costs for producers.

Auburn University Extension specialists recently found a solution to these problems by using a new bermuda variety, "Tifton 78. " This variety is easy to propagate from above-ground cuttings and, as a result of coordinated efforts among Extension forage crops and seed agronomists and an Extension horticulturist, an innovative greenhouse propagation system was implemented.

The approach taken was to fill 96 cell bedding plant trays with a peat-lite media, then stick a two-to-four inch stem of Tifton 78 bermudagrass in each cell. The trays were maintained in a greenhouse for three to four weeks, at which time the stems had rooted sufficiently to use as plugs for establishing "seed patches " of the new variety.

The availability of the grass was made known through Alabama county agents, magazine articles, news releases, and individual contacts. The Alabama Crop Improvement Association sold the grass as foundation status material.

The approach proved highly successful. A total of 605 flats were sold to 110 farmers. Ten of these were farmers who sell planting stock to others. The remainder planned to plant a nurse area to provide them with a source of vegetation for further plantings on their own farms.

This approach to introducing a new forage bermudagrass offered several advantages: (1) availability of the variety was hastened (any producer who wanted some material could get it), (2) availability at a lower price than would otherwise have been the case, (3) assurance of weed-free status, and (4) a more easily certified grass, thus saving time and expense for the Alabama Crop Improvement Association.

This program worked well due to the merging of expertise from three separate areas. As a result, the forage producers of Alabama benefited considerably. Because of the success of the program, it's expected that the Crop Improvement Association will use this technique for introducing other new varieties of vegetatively propagated grasses.