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John Reitman

By John Reitman

New Oklahoma St. Bermudagrass passes first test

For nearly 20 years, Pat Berger was a golf course superintendent, but he has spent most of the past two decades managing sports turf for the University of Arkansas athletic teams. That tenure includes the past 10 years overseeing the artificial turf surface at the university's football stadium.

090519tahoma1.jpgFor the first time in a decade, the university has real grass on its football field, and the experience has brought Berger back to his roots.

This summer, the field at Razorback Stadium was converted to Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass, a new release developed by breeders at Oklahoma State University for cold, drought and traffic tolerance. 

The new surface got its first test Labor Day weekend when Arkansas kicked off the college football season with a game against Portland State. Exhibiting its potential for traffic tolerance, the turf showed nary a divot after two practices and a game, Berger told Hawgs Illustrated.

"This is a lot like being a golf course superintendent," Berger said. 

"We need to topdress the field to fill in some low spots. . . . Topdressing is going to solve your problems."

Noted for its visual turf quality and density, Tahoma 31 grows aggressively, but has a low vertical growth rate, and it can be mowed as low as 0.125.

Field tested on golf courses in Oklahoma and in NTEP trials throughout the transition zone, Tahoma 31 can easily handle the hot, humid summers of the mid-South. It also was bred to withstand unseasonably cold winters that can plague transition zone golf courses. 

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In field trials at Oklahoma State, Tahoma 31 showed exceptional drought tolerance, exhibiting the lowest ET rates for three consecutive years. Researchers in Stillwater say their new grass can use up to 20 percent less water than some other Bermudas.

Breeders at Oklahoma State, including Yanqi Wu, Ph.D, professor of grass breeding and genetics, have been working on Tahoma 31 since 2006. As breeders pared down a list of potential new genotypes from more than 10,000 to about 1,600 specimens, plot No. 31 performed best under grueling winter conditions in 2010 field trials, exhibiting early spring green-up and dense growth. 

Sod Production Services of Charles City, Virginia, holds the licensing rights to this hybrid Bermuda system that is available only as sod.

Edited by John Reitman





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