Bermuda Grass

Bermuda-grassBY Kurt Nolte

• Most of the world’s supply of registered Bermuda grass seed is grown in Yuma County. There are few other spots known where Bermuda grass will even produce viable seed.

• Bermuda grass is a major seed crop planted on America’s lawns, sports fields and golf courses around the southern U.S. and in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

• It is also grown for hay, meadows and pastures, and for erosion control on levees and fields. World usage of the crop has increased 40 percent with the entry of certified proprietary varieties in the marketplace.

• During the period 1940-1952, when irrigation water was obtained from wells that were becoming more saline each year, this crop was the mainstay of farmers and kept them in business until Colorado River water arrived.

• Bermuda grass is named after the Atlantic islands of the same name. The grass is a perennial and lives from year to year without replanting.

• Bermuda grass is very hardy after becoming established, living for months without moisture. It also is on record that it lived for over two years when submerged by the Salton Sea in Imperial Valley, making renewed growth when the water evaporated.

• Bermuda is also a stubborn weed in the arid desert Southwest and can be very hard to eradicate when established.

• The improved hybrid Bermuda grasses (Cynodon dactylon L.) are used for both hay and grazing. Coastal was the first hybrid Bermuda grass developed at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga, and was released in 1943. Several other Bermuda grass varieties have been developed since then by both public agencies and private companies. Hybrid Bermuda grasses have been popular for hay production because they are very responsive to nitrogen fertilizer, have high yield potential and usually dry or cure faster than most other forages that could be used for hay.

In 1989, Cebeco International Seeds Inc. and Arizona Grain Inc. entered into a cooperative breeding program in C. dactylon for turf and forage grass improvement.

• Bermuda grass is an introduced plant to the United States. It most likely arrived in contaminated hay, which was used as bedding when slaves were brought to America.

• Bermuda grass plants were used exclusively for forage for hundreds of years and also as a lawn grass, even though seed was sold mostly for forage. Bermuda grass was used in the southern United States in the early 1900s as a golf course turf, and was used as an “alternative” for sand greens, which were exactly that – a putting surface comprised of sand.

Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at knolte@cals.arizona.edu or 726-3904. For additional information please visit https://extension.arizona.edu/yuma.