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Spring Transition of Bermudagrass

Now is the time to start thinking about transitioning your overseeded bermudagrass.  The spring transition of overseeded ryegrass back to a mono-stand of bermudagrass can be a concern and a challenge for golf course superintendents and turfgrass managers of sports fields, parks and other turfgrass areas across the southern regions of theUnited States.

During early spring when bermudagrass is beginning to green-up, cool season grasses are at their peak growth period.  Cool season grass tillers that may have be initiated in the fall and winter develop very rapidly in the spring and produce a dense turf cover.  In contrast, bermudagrass is just beginning to break dormancy and produce new shoots from stolons and rhizomes near the soil surface.  Consequently, cool season grasses absorb much of the sunlight and very little reaches new bermudagrass leaves.  Likewise, the root system of cool season grasses is very active compared to bermudagrass in early spring.  Until the temperatures change to favor bermudagrass, cool season grasses remain dominant.  When this change occurs in late spring, turfgrass managers should use cultural practices (vertical mowing, aeration, fertilization, topdressing, close mowing, etc.) to suppress cool season grasses and promote bermudagrass.  Otherwise, the change from cool season grasses to bermudagrass occurs too abruptly and results in a poor transition.

 

 

Where suppression of cool season grass is desirable, turf should be aerated in early spring (March) with a coring-type aerator.  The turf should also be mowed short throughout the transition period to reduce the leaf surface of the ryegrass.

 

A gradual transition of mowing height should start in March.  Slowly lower the height of cut throughout the month until the ryegrass is being mowed at 1/2 to 3/4 inch or less.  Continue to mow at this height until the grass has transitioned to a monostand of bermudagrass.

 

Fertilization practices during the transition period are also critical to bermuda recovery.  So long as temperatures favor growth of the cool season grass, nitrogen rates should be kept at a minimum to maintain acceptable color.  When temperatures increase to favor bermudagrass (60 degree night and 75 degree days), nitrogen rates should be increased to promote bermudagrass recovery.  Applications of nitrogen every two weeks at a rate of 1 pound per 1,000 sq. ft. should be made throughout the transition period, or until bermudagrass has completely recovered.

 

Watering practices during the transition period are also very important to bermudagrass recovery.  Daily applications of water that wet only the top few inches of soil should be avoided after temperatures favor bermudagrass recovery.  Light, frequent applications of water favor cool season grasses and extend their period of dominance over bermudagrass.  On the other hand thoroughly wetting the soil 6 to 8

inches deep and allowing the cool season grasses to show signs of moisture stress before applying additional water will give bermudagrass a competitive edge over ryegrass.

 

Finally, there is the option of “chemical transitioning” the cool season grass.  There are a number of chemicals that can be applied to aid in the transitioning of the ryegrass.  The products timeframe for transitioning the ryegrass range from overnight to as many as 6-8 weeks.  Check with your chemical supply company for more information on these products.

 

The trick to making the smoothest transition from cool season grass back to bermudagrass is planning, start early and stick with a program.  Transitioning from cool season grass to bermudagrass is more of an art than a science.  Play with the above suggestions and find what works best for you

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