Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Turf toughie: Tifway hybrid bermudagrass


By Curt Harler

We all know how tough life used to be: Walking five miles to class through chin-high snow drifts… uphill both ways.

Being in Dr. Beth Guertal’s classes at Auburn can be just as daunting. We’ll tell you right up front that, to get this multiple-choice answer correct, you need to know something about all four of the possible answers. Guertal’s question to her turf students:

Which of the following is a true statement about Tifway hybrid bermudagrass?
A. Not used much anymore in Alabama, TifSport has largely replaced it
B. Viable seed is available
C. Also widely known as 419
D. An intraspecific hybrid

“This is sort of a ‘two tier’ multiple-choice question,” she notes. “It is two-tier for the following reasons: 1) every question is correct for some other grass, (in other words, none of my false answers for a questions are invented nonsense, and thus sometimes a student can ‘back into’ the correct answer); and, 2) to pick the correct answer a student also has to know other information, such as what an intraspecific hybrid is.”

The correct answer, Guertal reveals, is ‘C’. In many parts of the Southeast, folks know Tifway by the other name of ‘419’. Sometimes people put it together: ‘Tifway 419.’
Eric Klaypas inspects the Tifway at Auburn University. Photo courtesy Auburn.

“It is important that students know both names and that they are the same grass – often a client only knows one name or the other,” she says. Because Tifway is an interspecific hybrid (cross of two different bermudagrass species, typically Cynodon dactylon and Cynodon transvaalensis) it is sterile, and thus does not produce viable seed. It must be propagated via sprigs or sod. That is why options B and D are incorrect. An intraspecific hybrid is a cross between two (or more) bermudagrasses of the same species (these are also known as synthetics). An easy way to keep these straight is that “intraspecific” has an ‘a’ in it, just like the word ‘same’, and ”interspecific” has an ‘e’ in it, just like the word ‘different.” Answer A is wrong because Tifway is still widely sold and used throughout the Southeast.

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