The Wear Tolerance of Seeded Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grasses (Cynodon spp.) Grow well in hot climates and tolerate droughts and soils with a high salt content. They are particularly valued for their high wear tolerance. Wear tolerance is the capability of lawn grasses to defy vehicle and foot traffic. Traffic creates pressure which crushes stems, crowns and leaves of grass plants. The ability to recover from traffic harm is really a property of grasses with high wear tolerance. Bermuda grasses grow rapidly by above- and below-ground runners and can overgrow boundaries and enter flowerbeds. Common Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is far more likely to develop out of bounds than some of the newer hybrid varieties.

Hybrid Bermuda Grass Varieties

Common Bermuda grass grows easily from seed, is disease- and pest-resistant and has deep roots which make it drought-tolerant. Its disadvantage is it creates a loosely netted lawn. Between 1950 and 1970, scientists produced hybrid Bermuda grass varieties that produced higher quality lawns. But these varieties were sterile, meaning that they had to be grown from sod or sprigs. More lately, seeded hybrid Bermuda grasses have been developed that rival the vegetative hybrids’ quality and wear tolerance. Most Bermuda grasses grow well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10.

Hybrid Wear Tolerance

The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program evaluates turf grasses for various qualities, including wear tolerance. Sterile, vegetative Bermuda grass hybrids are greener and develop more densely than common Bermuda grass. Vegetative hybrids have excellent wear tolerance, but they’re more expensive to install and require more upkeep than seeded Bermuda grass hybrids. Seeded hybrids, such as Bermuda grass Princess-77 (Cynodon dactylon ‘Princess 77’) and Bermuda grass Yukon (Cynodon dactylon ‘Yukon’) showed similar wear tolerance when compared to vegetative hybrids in 2012 NTEP trials. Wear tolerance was tested at various times in August and September, which are instances of heavy traffic.

Hybrid Resistance and Recovery From Traffic

Traffic injury to lawn grasses may be moderate or severe. When the soil is moist, it becomes compacted and is displaced in certain areas, causing severe damage. During severe damage, the grass crowns and upper origins suffer harm. University of California Cooperative Extension advisor M. Ali Harivandi ranked lawn grasses, based on their relative resistance to wear and recovery from mild or severe harm. In all cases, hybrid Bermuda grasses had greater relative resistance and recovery from moderate and severe harm than common Bermuda grass. When compared to other lawn grasses, hybrid Bermuda grasses outranked all types of grasses in capability to recoup from both moderate and severe traffic harm.

Compaction Reduces Wear Tolerance

Bermuda grass loses some of its wear tolerance when the soil becomes compacted. Compaction prevents deep root development and the lawn becomes slimmer as shoot growth decreases. Grass plants have significantly less access to soil nutrients, and weeds which grow well in compacted soil begin to invade the lawn. You can prevent compaction by installing hardscape pathways in heavy foot traffic areas. Limit vehicle and foot traffic when the soil is moist. Compost and other organic amendments help to prevent compaction, but might need to be implemented occasionally. An aerator is another instrument to fight compaction. It eliminates little soil plugs allowing more extensive root growth and water and nutrient penetration into the bottom.

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