Welcome to the University of Georgia's Tifton campus, where we've been breeding turf and forage
grasses since the 1930s for people around the United States and the world. Here at the UGA
Tifton campus, the turfgrass breeding program has a lot of history. In 1946, Dr. Glenn Burton
along with the USDA ARS initiated the program in hopes to develop better bermuda grasses to
replace the current industry standards of sanded putting greens and seeded varieties. Since then, the
program has released several greens type bermuda grasses including TifGreen, TifDwarf and the
latest release of TifEagle in 1997. Here in our greenhouse in Tifton is where the process begins
to develop new turf grasses and I'm Brian Schwartz and i'm the turfgrass breeder here officially
but to be honest with you, we're all turf grass breeders. We concentrate on making hybrids of new
bermuda grass, zoysia grass and centipede grasses that start in the greenhouse in little pots
but are expanded and grown in our fields for several years before we move them out to our
research plots in other parts of the state in the country for evaluation. To my back we have
zoysia grass hybrids that we made this year. We're growing them out and we'll plant them in fumigated
plots this year. We have other propagation of bermuda grasses and zoysia grasses we're
sending to five other universities to get their input on the performance across the whole nation.
The initial hybridization of new plants is my favorite part of the whole process.
Every year we try to make between two to six thousand hybrids to evaluate over the next
five or ten years and in 2020 we were blessed with a great crossing season and in front of you
here is our crosses and we've reached almost 10,000 this year. So we have golf course types, home
lawn types and sports field types that we just can't wait to look at for the next several years.
One of the major operations of our turf grass breeding program in the greenhouse
is the maintenance of genetic purity, the propagation of new materials
and the measuring of morphology like leaf widths, leaf lengths, and inner node diameters.
This is Jing Zhang. I'm a senior research associate. We're working with turfgrass breeders to collect
comprehensive data in the field trials using unmanned aerial systems.
Field phenotyping has always been a bottleneck for plant breeders.
Conventional method to collect data in the field trial at this scale will take days
but using UAS we were able to collect data in a few minutes which greatly enhanced
breeders capability to screen large number of plant materials. The plant characteristics we're
taking to name a few include greenness, percent green cover, and the different vegetation indexes.
All right so this vehicle is our test platform for our tractor camera.
We're developing a camera that's going to go out on the tractor and be on the field all day
where it'll record images of the field and then when you come back you're going to upload that
data, it'll create a map for you indicating any problems such as weed pressure or disease.
Right now we're working on a model that'll identify weeds as the tractor images them.
As we move forward we're always looking for better grasses to help our local turf managers be the
best that they can be. As we prepare for future bermuda grass releases, we're performing different
management strategies such as sprigging rates, fertilizer usage and water management to help
our turf managers better understand these grasses upon their release. We're also looking at different
species as well. In 2016 we initiated our zoysia grass greens trial where we were able to compare
some of our hybrids to current industry standards. With a new species also comes different management
strategies but with our large plot sizes we were able to test these different practices in order to
find what works best. At the end of the day we are working to make the turf industry a better place.
It's personally satisfying to be here for this process because it represents about 20
years of research at the University of Georgia in collaboration with the USDA ARS, working with our
friends here at Patten Seed to bag up a centipede grass product called TifBlair which is grown
here in Georgia and used not only in southeast but all over the world.
If you had to name one accomplishment at the University of Georgia turfgrass breeding program
that I'm most proud of it would be the release of TifTuf bermuda grass which is a culmination of
research efforts since the early 1990s carried all the way out through the growers in Georgia and now
over 50 growers in the united states, over 40 in the world just in collaboration and coordination
with the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Georgia Crop Improvement, and Georgia
Seed Development to get out a product that saves one of our most precious resources which is water.
I love working in this industry because everyone works together in order to achieve their goals.
None of this would be possible without the help from the local sod farms and golf
courses that allow the off-site trials, the money and equipment donations that
are made each year and the willingness of the professionals to share what they have
learned during their time in the industry. For the last decade we've been working on
drought and shade tolerance here in Tifton but we want to hear from you if we need to work on
something else. Please feel free to contact me Brian Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org