It has been seven years since Turf Research North Carolina (TRNC) was conceived as a collaborative effort between NC State, the North Carolina Sod Producers Association (NC SPA), and Sod Solutions to raise funds for the research, development, and potential release of new, improved grasses from the NC State Turfgrass Breeding Program. Seventeen sod farms, all members of NC SPA, and Sod Solutions contributed almost $400,000 to TRNC, and today we are seeing the first fruit of this collaborative effort.
TRNC Member Farms
- Cape Fear Turf Farm, Inc.
- Carolina Fresh
- Carolina Turf
- Duplin Sod Farms, Inc.
- Buy Sod
- Lawn Pro, Inc.
- Mackilwean Turf Farms
- Neuse River Turf Farm
- Oakland Plantation Turf Farm, Inc.
- Piedmont Turf Farm
- Quality Turf, Inc.
- Sandhill Turf, Inc.
- Sandy Plain Sod, LLC
- Super Sod
- Tri-State Turf, Inc.
- Turf Mountain Sod, Inc.
The farms listed above are all members of NC SPA and contributed funds to TRNC from 2016 to 2021.
The turfgrass breeding pipeline at NC State is in full production and three grass types that are near the final development stage include a zoysiagrass, a St. Augustinegrass, and a centipedegrass. Most recently, activity has centered on expanded on-farm trials for zoysiagrass XZ 14069, which will be the focus of this article.
Zoysiagrass XZ 14069
Amongst all the Zoysiagrass bred and developed by NC State under TRNC, XZ 14069 has been identified as a line with multiple desirable characteristics, including:
- Good turf quality ratings, making it suitable for high-end use.
- Good performance under an array of climates, including regions with warm temperate, warm-humid, and hot-arid climates.
- Exceptional combination of aggressiveness and persistence under very low inputs.
These characteristics have been identified in four different trials: roadside trials by NC DOT, low input zoysia trials by USGA, low input trials by NTEP, and on-farm trials by several sod farms.
Roadside Trials by the North Carolina Department of Transportation
In 2018 and 2019, NC DOT trialed ten different zoysiagrasses along the roadsides of NC highways in Lenoir and Yadkin County. With little to no inputs in this harsh environment, XZ 14069 was in the top statistical group across all parameters. For more information on this trial and to read about NC State and NC DOT’s collaboration, click here.
Low Input Zoysia Trials by the United States Golf Association
The low input trial by the USGA was a two-year evaluation of 30 zoysiagrasses at five locations (West Lafayette, IN; Raleigh, NC; Tifton, GA; Stanfield, AZ, and Escondido, CA), representing five different USDA plant hardiness zones (5b, 7b, 8b, 9b, and 10a). XZ 14069 delivered the highest cumulative turf performance index among all 30 entries.
Low Input NTEP Trial
The 2018 low input NTEP trial evaluated XZ 14069 alongside four other zoysiagrasses, three bermudagrass, one buffalograss, and one mixture. Eight locations were involved in the trial (Raleigh, NC; Logan UT; College Station, TX; Stillwater, OK; Las Cruces, NM; Starkville, MS; Citra, FL, and Jay, FL). The only irrigation provided during the trial was to prevent dormancy, to prevent stress, or during severe stress. Under these severe conditions and diverse climates, XZ 14069 achieved the highest turf performance index ranking and was the highest-ranked zoysiagrass in the trial.
Expanded On-Farm Trials
On-farm trials for XZ 14069 began in 2020 at farms in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. These trials involved small plots (20 ft. x 10 ft) planted between June and August 2020, enabling the observation of grow-in, fall color retention, and spring green up.
In June 2021, plans were made to expand on-farm trials to enable full production observation (response to various control products, response to typical production techniques, harvestability, regrowth rate from ribbons, etc.).
To make this possible, Dr. Susan Milla-Lewis and her turfgrass breeding team spent hundreds of hours meticulously hand-planting 1,500 72-cell plug trays. See photos below.
These 1,500 trays will be delivered in July and August of 2021 to three TRNC member farms:
- Piedmont Turf in Maiden, NC, will plant ½ acre.
- Sandhill Turf in Eagle Springs, NC, will plant 1 acre.
- Neuse River Turf in Arapahoe, NC, will plant 1 acre.
If you are interested in hearing more about zoysiagrass XZ 14069 and other turfgrass research projects at NC State, you have the opportunity to attend the 2021 Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Field Day on Wednesday, August 11. Click below to register for the Field Day.
REGISTRATION CLOSES FRIDAY, AUGUST 5TH