Explore Magazine Volume 2 Issue 1


UF Tees Off With New Turf Grass

A velvety, short-growing turfgrass specimen collected on a municipal golf course in Hawaii and developed at a University of Florida laboratory may bring hole-in-one success to the nation's golf courses.

The Bermuda grass, named FloraDwarf for its height, is the first variety of turfgrass from UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to receive a patent. Used primarily for putting greens, FloraDwarf shows so much promise that one professional golfer joined forces with UF scientists to grow it on his sod farm and plant it on a golf course he helped design.

``I think it's going to have great impact,'' said professional golfer Jerry Pate of Pensacola. ``I think it's going to be a grass like no other grass we have seen for Bermuda grass putting greens.''

IFAS turfgrass Professor Al Dudeck developed FloraDwarf. He was on sabbatical in Hawaii in 1988 when he saw it growing in a small patch on a municipal golf course on the island of Kauai. He thought the grass was unusual and brought it back to his Gainesville laboratory. It was approved for release by IFAS in 1995, after several years of research.

IFAS scientists now are focused on producing enough FloraDwarf to supply Florida golf courses and others around the nation. With more than 1,400 courses in the Sunshine State alone, the turf could be in high demand. Turfgrass is already big business in Florida where the value added to the state's economy by all sectors of the turfgrass industry totaled $7.3 billion in 1991-1992, said Terril Nell, chairman of IFAS' environmental horticulture department.

Several qualities make FloraDwarf different from other grasses currently used on putting greens, Dudeck said. It grows shorter than other varieties on the market, hence its name, and because of its height, helps the ball roll faster.

``This grass is very tight without a lot of grain,'' Pate said. ``It's more dense, so you have more cushion for the ball and speed.''

Andrea Billups

photo by Milt Putnam

Al Dudeck checks root distribution and thatch in FloraDwarf Bermuda grass.