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UGA turf team will present latest developments

By for CAES News

The 73rd annual Southeastern Turfgrass Conference will be held on Thursday, April 25, at the University of Georgia Tifton campus.

The conference’s morning session will begin at 8 a.m. at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. The afternoon session will start at 1 p.m. at the turfgrass plots in the center of campus and feature presentations from UGA faculty who specialize in turfgrass breeding.

The cost to attend is $100. For more information or to register for the conference, see https://t.uga.edu/4Sn.

Information presented during the conference will highlight the latest trends in turfgrass breeding, according to Brian Schwartz, turfgrass breeder at UGA-Tifton. A key issue right now is cost efficiency, he added.

“In the past, the prettiest turf with the most input was fine, but now people are really leaning towards an acceptable turf with little to no input,” he said. “A grass doesn’t need to be the most beautiful thing if people don’t have to do much to it.”

Schwartz will speak about UGA’s efforts to develop the right hybrids for homeowners, golf course superintendents and sports field managers. He will also discuss the progress on creating a more resilient zoysia grass.

“Often zoysia grass doesn’t recover after wear from sports or dogs, or infection from diseases,” he said. “My focus is making it more disease tolerant, and hopefully, more injury resilient.”

David Jespersen, a turfgrass physiologist based on the UGA Griffin campus, will discuss the importance of understanding plant physiology in order to improve turfgrass performance.

Jing Zhang, a turfgrass research scientist at UGA-Tifton, will discuss the use of drones and cameras in turfgrass research and how they could help turfgrass breeders produce drought-resistant varieties in the Southeast.

Paul Raymer, a turfgrass breeder based at UGA-Griffin, will talk about a non-GMO herbicide-resistance system for seashore paspalum. The method improves the management of Bermuda grass and other grassy weeds. Raymer’s team is currently evaluating their advanced lines to determine which will be released as new varieties.

UGA scientists will be joined by researchers from North Carolina State University and University of Florida. Industry representatives will present during the morning session.

“This year we are bringing in technical reps to give science-based talks about products from their companies,” Schwartz said. “It’s different, but I hope it goes well.”

Schwartz hopes attendees will leave the conference having learned something new.

“It’s a continuation of work that’s been going on here for more than 73 years,” he said. “This is a service we try to provide in south Georgia.”

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