Ultradwarf bermudagrasses have shorter rhizomes, faster ball speeds,
and are more heavily stoloniferous, and more prone to thatch and localized dry spots, than
the traditional standard Tifdwarf.
Bermudagrass varieties for golf greens keep getting
shorter and shorter. In 1960, Tifdwarf was the ultimate in Florida. But
equipment manufacturers kept improving their products, and by the late 1970s it was clear
that the demands were only going to increase. Bermudagrass greens, especially 328
(Tifgreen) were getting clobbered by Bermudagrass Decline, at close height of cut,
especially during the cloudy days of August and September. In 1980, the late Monty
Moncrief asked me to chair a USGA Greens Section seminar on the subject of Tifdwarf.
But what I remember was the agitation of the audience regarding Decline, and the
fact that no one at that time had any answers. It would be years later that Dr.
Monica Elliott would come to Florida to solve the puzzle of Bermudagrass Decline.
Meanwhile efforts to grow bentgrass for year-round golf in Florida
were doomed to disease, as was witnessed in a major televised tournament. In 1987, I
was strongly urged by my University administration to develop a bentgrass breeding
program. I ignored this advice because I felt it unwise to try to work against
millions of years of evolution which has outfitted warm-season plants to grow in
Private consultants and golf course superintendents kept coming up
with new types of bermuda. Some felt that Tifdwarf was no longer genuine, thus a
Classic Dwarf was marketed. In the same way that Tifdwarf arose as an off-type in
328 (Tifgreen), superintendents such as Paul Frank were coming up with their own improved
strains such as PF-11. At times these new grasses seemed to be as much the problem
as the solution. Off-types that occurred on greens were sometimes more stoloniferous
than the surrounding grass, thus causing hydrophobic spots. But solid greens of the
same grass didn't seem to have the problem. Paul's work at Wilderness Country Club
clearly showed that there were bermudagrasses that could survive at close cutting on
greens in high humidity pockets surrounded by cypress swamps. This was the perfect
environment for Decline. Within a few years, FloraDwarf was also recognized to be a
big improvement in shortness, but it tended to be very difficult to aerify and overseed,
at least with perennial ryegrass. And there were other Ultradwarfs.
During the mid 1980s I was working almost exclusively on St.
Augustinegrass. Ironically this was on the advice of Dr. G. C. Horn, a widely
respected consultant for golf course superintendents and former scientist with the
University of Florida. Whenever he talked at the turf show, it was standing-room
only. By 1985, I coined the term
"Ultradwarf" to refer to dwarf St. Augustinegrasses shorter than Seville.
The term never caught on with Florida sod growers, as they were having enough problem with
call-backs and lawsuits over the first Ultradwarf, Jade St. Augustinegrass.
Then by August 1996 I used "Ultradwarf" to refer to
bermudagrasses shorter than Tifdwarf. And the name stuck. We were doing
genetic fingerprinting studies to distinguish the new off-types, trade types, mutants,
varieties, whatever they are called, and "Ultradwarf" helped to pigeon-hole a
number of similar plants. The danger of generalities is that once we understand the
similarities of the Ultradwarf bermudagrasses, we ignore the fact that there are
The first information I have accumulated here is on herbicide
resistance. We sprayed Ultradwarf bermudagrasses with way more herbicide than you
would ever want, just to see how susceptible they are. They are not highly
susceptible, in most cases, even to products applied at multiples of the label
rate. Don't do what we did, in fact you can see the results here without risking
As an afterword, why don't
I say "UltraDwarf" with a capital "D." The business of
capitalizing a letter in the middle of a word seems to me an unnecessary fad used in
trademarks. Part of the incentive is geek. UNIX program such as perl take
are case sensitive. Somehow it helps the programmer distinguish variables from
functions from operators and other stuff. But to me, I just get tired trying to
remember what letters to capitalize. Whether Ultradwarf is a proper noun can also be
debated, so perhaps it shouldn't be capitalized at all.
Philip Busey, firstname.lastname@example.org