This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
By Tara Weaver-Missick, Branch Chief, with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Summer field sports are under way, and sports fans around the world are having spirited discussions on their favorite team’s chances of winning. A key factor of sports success is the condition of the field, and USDA scientists are just as interested in those field conditions—but from the angle of fighting the bugs that could be eating the field!
Mole crickets—tunneling pests that damage golf courses, recreational fields and lawns—are a top insect pest of lawns and turf, and cost millions of dollars annually in damage and control measures.
To help “level the playing field” in the battle against bugs, USDA-Agricultural Research Service scientists in Tifton, Ga., in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Georgia, developed and released TifEagle, a bermudagrass that resists hungry insect pests. This high-performance, high-quality grass is particularly suited for golf greens in Florida, Georgia and other southern states.
TifEagle has short, narrow leaves and a dense, fast-spreading root system, making it ideal for putting greens. The ideal putting green also must be able to withstand the daily stress of close mowing that gives the North’s cool-season bentgrass varieties their prized putting speed. TifEagle soars in that regard, too.
TifEagle’s lush, carpet-like canopy helps the ball roll faster and more smoothly, and it’s environmentally friendly, crowding out weeds and algae so there’s less need for chemical controls.
USDA scientists also developed and released TifSport, another bermudagrass that’s cold-tolerant, has increased pest tolerance, greens up earlier in the spring, and withstands frequent mowing. It stands up to heavy use, so universities, high schools and local recreation departments across the South have installed it on their athletic fields.
There’s no guarantee that these high-performing USDA grasses will improve your score, but they could make playing more fun. Fore!