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TIFWAY (TIFTON 419) BERMUDAGRASS FOR LAWNS, FAIRWAYS, AND TEES

Glenn W. Burton

Tifway was selected and tested cooperatively by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station, and the U.S. and Southern Golf Associations. It is a chance hybrid between Cynodon transvaalensis and C. dactylon that appeared in a lot of seed of C. transvaalensis supplied by Dr. D. Meredith, African Explosives and Chemical Industries Limited, Johannesburg, South Africa, in the spring of 1954. The only identifying characteristic of this lot of seed was the number "2", given to it by Dr. Meredith. Inasmuch as all other seedlings studied from this seed lot were C. transvaalensis, the female parent of Tifway must have been C. transvaalensis (2n = 18). The chromosome number (2n = 27) and other characteristics of Tifway indicate that its male parent must have been C. dactylon (2n = 36).

Tifway bermudagrass is a highly disease-resistant selection with a very dark green color. As a consequence, it maintains a desirable green color longer and with less nitrogen than most other selections. Its fine leaves, stiffer than Tifgreen, make it inferior to Tifgreen for putting greens, but superior for tees and fairways where greater stiffness gives the ball a better lie. Tifway starts growth earlier in the spring than most bermudagrass. It is also more frost resistant and will, therefore, remain green later into the fall. Tifway is more tolerant of golf cart traffic than common or Tifgreen, but is less tolerant than Tiflawn. It is more resistant than Tifgreen to sod webworm and mole cricket attacks. Tifway makes a very dense sod and is more weed resistant than most bermudagrasses. It will also tolerate heavier concentrations of 2,4-D than Tifgreen. Tifway has short seed stalks that bear heads with light reddish anthers. Like other similar hybrids, it sheds no pollen -- a desirable trait for people allergic to bermudagrass pollen. Since Tifway never produces seed, it must be propagated by planting sprigs.

Tifway is well-adapted throughout the southern United States and will do well where common bermudagrass will grow. Although it has survived moderate winters as far north as Beltsville, Maryland, it suffers a greater loss of stand and is less winter hardy than Tifgreen.

The name Tifway (coined from Tifton and fairway) indicates one use to which Tifway is well suited. Golf clubs using Tifway for fairways and tees report that it is tops for these purposes. Many home owners have been enthusiastic about Tifway as a lawn grass. Thus, for lawns, fairways, and tees, Tifway is superior to other bermudagrasses. Tifgreen and Tifdwarf, because of their greater softness, continue to be the best grasses for golf greens. Tiflawn is still the best heavy-duty grass for football fields, athletic fields, school grounds, etc.

ESTABLISHMENT

Tifway can only be propagated by planting sprigs. It may be easily established, however, if the following recommendations are followed:

1. Establish the desired grade and prepare the soil well as for a garden. Apply lime if soils tests indicate its need. A soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is best. Broadcast 15 to 20 pounds of complete fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, per 1000 square feet and thoroughly work it and the lime into the soil.

Research Geneticist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and University of Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, Georgia.

2. Plant sprigs only when the soil is moist. Spring and summer plantings are usually best, but Tifway may be planted any month in the southern part of the bermudagrass belt. Fall and winter plantings should be overseeded with 3 to 5 pounds of domestic ryegrass per 1000 square feet to help control erosion. Be sure to keep the ryegrass mowed at a height of about 1 inch to reduce competition with the bermudagrass sprigs.

3. Secure fresh pure (certified are best) sprigs of Tifway and plant them in moist freshly prepared soil as soon as possible. Do not let them wilt or dry out. One of the best planting methods consists of dropping the sprig and pushing the basal end into the soft soil with a thin (1/8") stick until only the tip leaves are left protruding. Then remove the stick and firm the soil around the sprig by stepping on it. A 12" piece of 1/8 x 1-1/2" strap iron (with a "V" cut in the end) bolted to the end of a 5-foot stock will enable one to plant sprigs in this manner from a standing position. Plant on 12-inch centers for rapid coverage. One bushel or square yard of sprigs, containing about 1000 sprigs, should plant 1000 square feet on 12-inch centers. If planted on 24-inch centers, it will plant 4000 square feet.

Quick establishment can be had by broadcasting 5 to 10 bushels of sprigs per 1000 square feet and pressing them into the soil with a machine with straight disks followed with a roller to firm the soil. This tends to set the sprigs in much the same way as the stick but misses many sprigs unless the machine is moved over the soil many times.

4. Pack the soil well with a heavy roller or by driving the tractor over the planting to establish the capillarity in the soil necessary to keep the soil moist around the sprigs. Water immediately after planting and keep the soil moist by watering lightly once or twice daily until the sprigs begin to grow.

5. Control weeds for rapid establishment. Spray immediately after planting with 2 lb/acre of 2,4-D that will keep both grass and broadleafed weed seeds from germinating. Spray again in about 4 weeks if Tifway has not covered the soil. Keep 2,4-D off of other plants. Mowing weekly at a height of 1 inch as soon as weeds begin to grow will help to control weeds and will favor the establishment of the grass.

MAINTENANCE

1. On most soils, annual fertilization will be required to maintain Tifway in top condition. A complete fertilizer, such as a 16-4-8, will supply nitrogen, phosphate, and potash in the ratios required and may be applied at a rate of 5 to 10 pounds per 1000 square feet in March and as frequently thereafter as needed. In lieu of a 16-4-8, a complete fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 may be applied at a rate of 10 to 20 pounds per 1000 square feet in March. It should be followed with applications of a nitrogen fertilizer such as 3 pounds of ammonium nitrate, uramite or nitroform, or 15 pounds of cottonseed meal or Milorganite per 1000 square feet at intervals of 4 to 6 weeks until the desired density and green color have been obtained. Use a fertilizer spreader or broadcast the fertilizer materials (as if they were seed) uniformly over the grass when it is dry. If applied properly, little burning should result from the application of these materials. To avoid burning, water immediately after applying the fertilizer to wash it off the leaves.

2. Mow weekly at a height of 3/4 to 1 inch in the sun, or 2 to 3 inches in light shade. Remove clippings from heavily fertilized grass.

3. Water thoroughly as needed to prevent wilting. Tifway will survive drought that will turn most of the grass brown, but allowing it to do so will weaken the turf.

4. If your Tifway begins to show unexplainable signs of dying, consult your county agent. He can supply or obtain the assistance you need. Good turf, like good health, is easier to keep than to recover once lost.

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