JW Turf Farms in Okeechobee, Florida is one of the initial growers of CitraZoy™ Zoysiagrass, a newly commercially released zoysiagrass from the University of Florida. Following 13 years of development and research, CitraZoy emerged as one of the most successful zoysia lines ( FAES 1307) from the Turf Research Florida (TRF) initiative to create an improved zoysiagrass for Florida.
In 2011, discussion began between Sod Solutions, turfgrass breeder Dr. Kevin Kenworthy and the Turf Producers of Florida (TPF) on the need to fund University of Florida (UF) research for the development of an improved zoysiagrass for Florida. JW Turf was one of the sod farms selected to plant trial plots of the top-performing zoysia lines emerging from TRF.
Director of Sports at JW Turf Farms, Jordan Brees said that due to their good relationships with these entities and the fact they were already looking to trial more zoysiagrasses at their farm, they were eager to expand two zoysia lines. Brees’ father-in-law, Warren Prescott, owns JW Turf Farms.
“We’d actually already had our eyes on these zoysiagrasses after seeing trials at the UF Field Day. When they offered us to put them in at our farm to see how they did in our soils and climate, we jumped all over it,” Brees said.
They fumigated the land and prepared two half-acre plots side-by-side for 1307 and 1319 right beside EMPIRE® Zoysia that was growing on their farm. Dr. Kenworthy, Addison King from Sod Solutions and Brees planted a truckload of plugs of these new zoysiagrass lines at the farm on September 27-28, 2018. He said he’ll never forget because they started planting on his birthday.
“One of the biggest attributes we noticed right away about 1307 was the limited amount of fungicide we had to put out,” he said. “We planted in September, so initial growing was in the winter, which we wouldn’t put much fungicide out anyway; but the following year it really stood out after it was grown-in. It’s near our bermuda fields that are irrigated with overhead irrigation that we water pretty heavily (because we sell so much of that grass and are constantly planting and regrowing it in).”
But even with all that water, Brees aid they were impressed to see that 1307 exhibited great disease resistance with no inputs of fungicide.
Brees went on to explain that they both performed well and they only just recently removed the 1319 so they could expand on 1307, now called CitraZoy. “I’d say its production is similar to EMPIRE, maybe even slightly faster. It’s one of the faster grow-in zoysias that we’ve seen. I’ve got several fine-bladed zoysias that take anywhere from 10-15 months to grow in but this one was quick. It was a 6-8 month grow-in which is good for our soil type.”
Helping UF test the grasses on their farm not only helped Dr. Kenworthy observe how the zoysiagrasses performed in their climate and soil, but it also helped JW Turf Farms understand the new lines of grass better too. Brees said when it came to having trial plots, they wanted to be one of the first farms to have these zoysia lines.
“Being in South Florida with sandy soil, we have a unique location and climate down here that’s stressful for turf. We’ve always felt that if we can see if the turf does well on our farm then it’s going to do well in a lot of places. We want to continue to have a popular name and continue to be on the forefront as far as putting in new grasses and ones that are successful,” Brees expressed.
JW Turf Farms was one of the first farms to grow Celebration® Bermudagrass, Latitude 36® Bermudagrass and TifTuf Bermuda. Brees said they plan to continue to stay ahead of the curve and compete with other farms by having grasses available earlier.
Expansion of CitraZoy in Florida
Brees said that other farms considering growing CitraZoy should note its grow-in rate, the color it keeps even during colder climates as well as the minimal maintenance requirements or inputs you have to put on it. “Also it’s blocking ability. That’s something that’s kind of big on our farm because we’re fairly sandy, so whether it blocks well or not is important. Every pallet we’ve ever cut of CitraZoy has held up very well. We’ve never had an issue of it falling apart or where the top of the sod is ready but the roots aren’t like we’ve come across with other zoysias.”
Brees said it’s done well in their cooler months and bounced back exceptionally from their cold snap in January 2022. JW Turf Farms recently expanded CitraZoy from 3.5 to almost 5 acres. “I’d like to expand more. I just don’t have any room right now. I am having to turn away orders for it.”
Brees is providing plant stock to other TRF sod farms that are interested in expanding CitraZoy and he said he’s ready for them to all expand on it so they can serve the customers that are calling and asking for CitraZoy.
“I really encourage the farms that are considering it to jump on board. I think there’s going to be a great market for it. I think it’s perfect for pretty much anyone that’s looking for something other than St. Augustine in their yard; all the way up to Palm Beach, Jupiter Island or down to Key West. It can be used on golf, on residential, for landscape and for city and county,” Brees said.
He added that it has a lot of potential because of its ease of maintenance and that he thinks it will blow up soon. JW Turf Farms will be hosting a CitraZoy Growers Event on April 12, 2022 from 8:45-10:30 a.m. Brees said this will be a perfect opportunity for anyone to come out and see the grass at its different growing stages from only being planted for a few months to completely grown in.
“They’ll also be able to see the qualities of this grass that we see every day. We can cut sod to show them the roots so they can see the bottom and what our soil type is like compared to their farm. We can show them some of the challenges that we’ve put this grass through and it’s still been successful, especially how we have this irrigated with other grasses. That’s not ideal and it still does very well.”
“One of the biggest challenges for us is that there’s already a demand for it. I already have golf course superintendents that have put it in their house and now that they love it at their homes there are golf courses that want it at their clubhouses,” Brees said. “There is already a small demand for CitraZoy where there’s not enough inventory. So there’s already a path for it to be successful if we can just get more acreage in the ground.”
Brees is getting ready to put CitraZoy in at the ex-president of the USGA’s home lawn on Jupiter Colony Island, a nice neighborhood consisting of multimillion-dollar homes. He also has several golf course architects, superintendents and high-end country club community landscape developers that have all sent inquiries on CitraZoy availability.
CitraZoy Home Lawn Experience
John C. Beuttenmuller, Executive Director of the Florida Foundation Seed Producers, Inc. was picked to have one of the trial lawns of CitraZoy in March 2018. Beuttenmuller lives in Alachua County, in Gainesville and previously had a St. Augustinegrass yard but wanted to switch to zoysiagrass for its texture.
“I’ve worked in partnership with Dr. Kenworthy’s breeding program and have seen how hard he’s been working to build the program and new turfgrass varieties. When he said they needed volunteers for a CitraZoy trial lawn, I told him I’d have a crew come scrape all my St. Augustine out and to just let me know when he was ready,” Beuttenmuller said.
His eagerness was welcomed and he couldn’t wait to help the program and learn about the potential of this new grass. Beuttenmuller’s contractor came in and took out his old grass so they could lay CitraZoy sod pieces on the bare ground. “There were no problems getting it in and getting it established.”
Since March 2018, he said he and his family have been very pleased with their new CitraZoy lawn. “I love the texture and it looks great. It’s a bit finer than some zoysiagrasses but it has great color and certainly in the spring it greens up early as well as has color retention in the fall. It’s performed well.”
Beuttenmuller said that it has been very low maintenance for a zoysiagrass and he hasn’t had to apply any fungicides. “It’s been perhaps even easier maintenance than the St. Augustinegrass for me so far.” For anyone interested in a CitraZoy lawn, Beuttenmuller said to give it a shot. “I think it’s really a wonderful variety. I haven’t had any complaints and I was a little weary before since I’d never had zoysiagrass.”
Although it was a transition, he said it was one he wanted to make and that he was glad he made the switch. “Our kids and dog love the new lawn. With St. Augustine, if the kids rolled around and played in the grass they’d get itchy and didn’t want to play but with this CitraZoy, they’ll go out and just lay in the grass like it’s a pillow.”
“If you’re considering switching to CitraZoy, do it. There shouldn’t be any reason to doubt or second guess the decision. I’m just ecstatic.”
If you are a sod producer interested in plant stock availability or learning more about growing CitraZoy, you can find a complete agenda and RSVP to attend the Field Day at JW Turf Farms on April 12 here: citrazoy.com.
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.