Celebration® Bermudagrass has been an outstanding bermudagrass in the market for several years. Its ability to block perfectly, resist drought and endure shade better than other bermudas has made Celebration one of the best options for home, sports, golf, commercial areas and parks. However, some characteristics, like excessive thatch buildup and seed head production make it more challenging to maintain for some sports and golf managers and to homeowners.
Mississippi State University’s Celebration X breeding program has been designed to improve Celebration, cross-pollinating it with other varieties. The goal is to develop a new “Celebration” with better cold tolerance, finer texture, fewer seed heads and less thatch. This Mississippi State breeding program was started by former professor Wayne Philley and is currently coordinated by Dr. Hongxu Dong.
The first experimental lines were produced and tested in 2015. Since then, four generations were produced for a total of more than 150 lines. These lines were tested initially at the MSU research area. The best lines were selected and planted on sod farms in other states and in the 2019 National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) bermudagrass trials.
Below, a brief history of the work being done since the program started in 2014:
- Initial crosses: 2014
- 2015: 5 progenies planted in a test plot area at MSU with 3 reps.
- 2016: 33 progenies planted in a test plot area at MSU with 3 reps.
- 2017: 37 progenies planted in a test plot area at MSU with 3 reps.
- 2018: 18 progenies planted in a test plot area at MSU with 3 reps.
- 2017: Top six experimental lines (2015 progenies) were planted as demo areas (8 x 20 ft.) in GA.
- 2017: 13 lines planted at MSU – 2.0 inches and reduced irrigation – residential setup.
- 2018: Top five experimental lines planted as demo areas in TX and SC.
- 2019: Top seven experimental lines planted as demo plots in MS, FL, TX and GA.
- 2019: Six lines entered the 2019 bermuda NTEP: 1017, 1026, 1042, 1048, 1050 and 1075.
- 2019: One line entered the 2019 putting greens NTEP: 1050.
- 2020: Larger areas (10,000 sq ft) planted at sod farms in Florida and on golf courses.
- 2021: Harvesting areas planted in previous years to evaluate tensile strength.
Data collected from the NTEP trials, research facilities, sod farms and golf courses will be compiled in the next few years and decisions will be made on what experimental line(s) will be released to the market. Likely more than one experimental line will be released, based on its characteristics for specific markets and designations like golf greens, residential, etc.
Currently, the best experimental lines are MSB 1017, MSB 1042, MSB 1050 and MSB 1080. This is based on tier performance so far, but more evaluations are needed at different locations to better understand their potential.
MSB 1017 = very good cold tolerance, excellent blocking ability and density, dark green genetic color.
MSB 1042 = very fast-growing, excellent density and very good disease resistance, spring green-up.
MSB 1050 = fine texture (dwarf), fast-growing and dark genetic green color, excellent winter color.
MSB 1080 = bluish-green color, fast-growing, little seed heads, very good speed of growth.