Inaugurated in 2012, TRF Zoysia is a collaboration between 20 Florida sod farms, the Turf Producers of Florida, the University of Florida, and Sod Solutions to raise funds for the research and development of an improved zoysiagrass for Florida.
As a result of this collaborative effort, the University of Florida commercially released two advanced zoysiagrass lines (FAES1307 and FAES 1319) in 2020, and the trademarked name of CitraZoy was secured for FAES 1307, which was deemed the best of the two zoysiagrass for the Florida market. For complete details on the 13-year development history of TRF, click here.
This article will focus on the characteristics of CitraZoy (FAES1307) and the current status of its commercial release.
At the onset of the TRF program, the goal was to develop and release a zoysiagrass specifically for the Florida market that would have improved and/or distinctively different characteristics compared to EMPIRE zoysia, the dominant zoysiagrass in Florida.
Several key characteristics have been observed in CitraZoy, making it an ideal Zoysiagrass for Florida, including a finer bladed grass option, better winter color, improved disease resistance, and delayed wilting or leaf curling in drought conditions.
Finer Bladed Grass Option for Florida Lawns
CitraZoy is a finer-bladed zoysiagrass than other Florida grass variety options.
Dr. Kevin Kenworthy, a professor of Grass Breeding and Genetics in the Agronomy Department at the University of Florida has been working with the variety since 2007. He explains the leaf texture and blade of this variety is different than others in the Florida market.
“It’s not as fine as the zoysiagrasses that people will associate for use on golf courses as an intermediate leaf blade. It’s actually a hybrid between the really fine-zoysiagrasses and the coarser zoysiagrasses,” Kenworthy said. “I consider it to be a new product and will provide an entirely new look for landscapes in the state of Florida.”
Kenworthy goes on to describe CitraZoy as having a manicured, attractive look without inputs other superfine zoysiagrasses require. Due to it not needing to be mowed as short as those varieties, he said the manicured lawn look comes easier for homeowners to accomplish.
“You won’t have the disease issues. CitraZoy won’t be as dense and it won’t have the thatch build-up that you’ll have with a superfine zoysia, so it’ll just be easier to maintain and keep looking attractive year-round,” Kenworthy added.
Improved Winter Color for Florida Lawns
One attribute that was being sought in the breeding process was the ability to hold onto a strong color throughout the year in Florida. CitraZoy outpaces others when it comes to fall color retention and spring green-up; less off-color time in any stage of winter dormancy. This is a feature that increasingly homeowners are looking for. CitraZoy lawns will not lose their green color as fast in the fall and will bounce back by early March/April and perhaps sooner depending on where in the state you are located.
“Winter color is one of the really nice features of CitraZoy,” explains Dr. Kenworthy. “That’s one of the things we hear about Zoysiagrass in Florida is that it doesn’t hold color in the winter, like the neighbor’s St. Augustine grass and so that’s been an important thing that we’ve tried to work on in our program.”
Improved Disease Resistance for Florida Lawns
When Dr. Kevin Kenworthy began breeding his zoysia lines at the University of Florida years ago, disease resistance was something of a “Holy Grail.” The need to have a variety with that attribute and especially resistance to Rhizoctonia (large and brown patch) was at the top of every checklist. He believes he has achieved that with CitraZoy™ Zoysiagrass, the zoysia from Florida, for Florida. This new cultivar from UF shows the best resistance to those two diseases than any zoysia on the market today.
“We are not claiming immunity by any means,” said Dr. Kenworthy. “But hopefully this will translate into a tremendous benefit for the use of zoysiagrass in the state of Florida.”
Hear what Dr. Kenworthy has to say about CitraZoy disease resistance:
Improved Response to Drought Conditions for Florida Lawns
Another desirable characteristic of CitraZoy is how it responds when drought conditions set in. Zoysiagrasses are, in general, very drought resistant, meaning they can survive prolonged periods without irrigation and recover well when irrigation or rainfall resumes. However, the downside of zoysiagrass is that they tend to wilt or leaf curl (show stress) shortly after irrigation is cut off. Florida homeowners will appreciate the fact that CitraZoy resists wilting leaf curling for a prolonged period after no rain or no irrigation.
Current Status of the Commercial Release
CitraZoy became available to license for the 20 TRF farms in October 2020. As of June 1, 2021, the below 16 Florida sod farms have licensed for CitraZoy.
- Floriturf Sod
- A. Duda & Sons
- Bayside Sod
- Bethel Farms
- Council Growers
- J.W. Turf
- King Ranch Turfgrass
- Lake Jem Farms
- McCall Sod Farm
- R.B. Farms
- S & K Sod Company
- Star Farms
- Tater Farms
- The Loving Group
- Travis Resmondo Sod
- Willaway Cattle and Sod Company
J.W. Turf has three acres of foundation CitraZoy from which all farms have been able to secure planting stock. As of July 1st, 2021, three farms have secured plant stock and planted an additional 12 acres (R.B. Farms – 5 acres; Star Farms – 3.5 acres; and A. Duda & Sons – 3.5 acres) and another two farms have plans to plant soon (King Ranch – 3 acres; and Willaway Cattle and Sod Company – 3.5 acres). Additionally, two or three more farms are expected to plant CitraZoy before the end of 2021. Florida availability of CitraZoy in 2021 and 2022 will be minimal as the majority of these newly planted acres will be used for expansion; typically, farms expand at a ratio of 1 to 10, so by the end of 2022, we could expect to have upwards of 250 acres, and by spring 2023, Florida homeowners should expect to see limited availability.
Although bred for the Florida climate, CitraZoy is an ideal grass for the entire gulf coast region, and licensing is now open to interested sod farms outside the state of Florida.