Clemson University Turfgrass Research Focuses On Possible New Grass For Putting Greens

About 100 participants learned about a new grass for putting greens during the 2018 Clemson Turfgrass Research and Education Field Day. (Clemson College of Agriculture Forestry and Life Sciences)

Clemson, SC (August 30, 2018) — Bentgrasses and bermudagrasses have been used successfully on putting greens for years, but some Clemson University researchers are looking at other turfgrass varieties golf course managers and superintendents can use to ensure a high level of playability.

Diamond zoysiagrass is one variety discussed during the 2018 Clemson Turfgrass Research and Education Field Day. Clemson turfgrass expert Bert McCarty is leading a team of researchers who are trying to better understand and identify how to manage diamond zoysiagrass to produce desirable putting conditions.

“The niche that diamond appears best adapted to in the Southeast region is on putting greens that receive too much shade for an ultradwarf bermudagrass to prosper and an inability to increase sunlight levels through removal of trees,” McCarty says. “Additional research is needed, but I believe diamond zoysiagrass is going to be found on many golf courses. Maybe not on higher-budgeted PGA courses, but most definitely on public and moderately priced private golf courses.”

While diamond zoysiagrass does appear to be promising, there is one concern. Seedheads emerge during the spring and fall seasons and can affect golf ball roll, distance and overall smoothness. Silas Ledford, a Clemson master’s student from Dalton, Georgia, is studying how to control seedheads while maintaining high turf quality and improving rooting.

“Diamond zoysiagrass is a great turfgrass,” Ledford says. “It has superior shade tolerance and increased cold tolerance over ultradwarf bermudagrass and bentgrasses currently used for putting greens. We project it to be more viable in the future and have a very strong niche market.”

In another diamond zoysiagrass study, master’s student Caleb Patrick from St. George talked about nutrient interactions with nitrogen sources. Patrick’s study focuses on nickel, the newest identified plant micronutrient.

“Nickel is important for nitrogen metabolism,” Patrick says. “Nitrogen metabolism is needed for plants to grow, but too much nickel can be detrimental.”

Jacob Taylor, a master’s student from Hampton, is looking at how shade affects iron fertilization of diamond zoysiagrass and Tifgrand bermudagrass. Taylor’s study has found iron fertilization may be beneficial for improving turfgrass quality under full sun, as well as in shaded areas.

“Too much shade can be problematic and lead to deterioration of turf quality and tolerance,” Taylor says. “We’re looking at what can be done to combat shade stress and retain acceptable turf quality.”

Patrick and Taylor are studying under Clemson turfgrass and soil science professor Haibo Liu, who believes diamond zoysiagrass has the potential to be successfully used on putting greens throughout the southern United States.

“Although the future looks bright for diamond, many questions still need to be answered,” Liu says. “Additional research needs to be conducted to examine cultivation, lowered mowing heights, increased plant growth regulator rate and application intervals, and surface rolling to further enhance putting green performance.”

Diamond zoysiagrass has been around for about 15 years. Experts estimate it saves on average about $30,000 per year for courses due to reduced personnel needs compared to bentgrass, which requires constant hand watering and the use of fans to cool the turf plants. Don Garrett, certified golf course superintendent in charge of Clemson’s Walker Golf Course, said this grass is easy to maintain and “has been a pretty good alternative for us.”

Alan Corbin from Greenville was one of more than 100 people who attended the 2018 field day. Corbin has attended the field day for the past 25 years and said he attends because knows he will learn the latest in turfgrass research.

“The knowledge I gain from attending this field day has been so valuable for me and my business,” Corbin says. “Clemson turfgrass professors know their stuff and I trust them to give the most current information as it relates to turfgrass research. I and others in this business depend on Clemson to provide the knowledge we need to be successful. And they always come through.”

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