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Turf Toughie: On the topic of Tifway hybrid bermudagrass

By |  May 21, 2013
Eric Kleypas/Photo courtesy Auburn University

Eric Kleypas, manager of all varsity sports fields at Auburn University, inspects the Tifway bermudagrass at Jordan-Hare stadium./Photo courtesy Auburn University


We all know how tough life used to be: Walking five miles to class through chin-high snow drifts… uphill both ways.

Being in Dr. Beth Guertal’s classes at Auburn can be just as daunting. We’ll tell you right up front that, to get this multiple-choice answer correct, you need to know something about all four of the possible answers. Guertal’s question to her turf students:

Which of the following is a true statement about Tifway hybrid bermudagrass?

  1. Not used much anymore in Alabama, TifSport has largely replaced it
  2. Viable seed is available
  3. Also widely known as 419
  4. An intraspecific hybrid

“This is sort of a ‘two tier’ multiple-choice question,” she notes. “It is two-tier for the following reasons: 1) every question is correct for some other grass, (in other words, none of my false answers for a questions are invented nonsense, and thus sometimes a student can ‘back into’ the correct answer); and, 2) to pick the correct answer a student also has to know other information, such as what an intraspecific hybrid is.”

Returfing Hare Stadium with Tifway/Photo courtesy Auburn University

Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium was resodded last spring with Tifway sports turf, a variety of hybrid bermudagrass./Photo courtesy Auburn University

The correct answer, Guertal reveals, is ‘C’. In many parts of the Southeast, folks know Tifway by the other name of ‘419’. Sometimes people put it together: ‘Tifway 419.’

[ RELATED LINK: Auburn researchers put turf varieties to the toughness test ]

“It is important that students know both names and that they are the same grass – often a client only knows one name or the other,” she says. Because Tifway is an interspecific hybrid (cross of two different bermudagrass species, typically Cynodon dactylon and Cynodon transvaalensis) it is sterile, and thus does not produce viable seed. It must be propagated via sprigs or sod. That is why options B and D are incorrect. An intraspecific hybrid is a cross between two (or more) bermudagrasses of the same species (these are also known as synthetics). An easy way to keep these straight is that “intraspecific” has an ‘a’ in it, just like the word ‘same’, and ”interspecific” has an ‘e’ in it, just like the word ‘different.” Answer A is wrong because Tifway is still widely sold and used throughout the Southeast.




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