Valencia Community College
Newcomers and visitors to Florida often remark on the coarseness of the local lawn grass. They are referring usually to St. Augustinegrass, our main turf.
Despite its shortcomings, susceptibility to drought and the chinch bug, St. Augustine performs very well in the region. It is highly competitive against weeds, usually smothering them, and it does well in diverse soils, under salt stress, and in moderate shade. The superior adaptation of St. Augustinegrass extends to low maintenance situations, such as canal embankments, where it generally performs better than bahiagrass, as long as there is a source of moisture.
The widespread expansion of St. Augustinegrass in Florida and other coastal areas is partly a function of the widespread installation of fixed irrigation systems, and an efficient turf production industry. Before the 1960's, many lawns were plugged rather than sodded, and bahiagrass had been expanded as an escape from the chinch bug problem.
The Floratam variety of St. Augustinegrass was released by the University of Florida and Texas A & M University, in 1973, for its resistance to the chinch bug and SAD virus. In Texas, where the virus was a problem, Floratam winter-killed too badly to be widely used, and was replaced in the 1980's by Raleigh. In Florida, where the chinch bug was a more serious problem, Floratam was eventually overcome by a virulent race chinch bugs. Nevertheless, Floratam has excellent tolerance to the herbicide atrazine, the main pre- and postemergence herbicide used in St. Augustinegrass, and it has aggressive stolons (above-ground runners) that can grow laterally at 3/4 inch (20 mm) per day.
St. Augustinegrass winterkills when temperatures reach 16 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 to -7 degrees Celsius). New dwarf varieties have been released since 1975 with lower growth habit, and better shade and cold tolerance than Floratam. While none has yet captured a major niche, Seville, Delmar, and Palmetto are examples of good performing dwarf St. Augustinegrasses.
Scientific Papers on St. Augustinegrass
Busey, P. 1980. Gamma ray dosage and mutation breeding in St. Augustinegrass. Crop Sci. 20:181-184.
Busey, P. 1986. Morphological identification of St. Augustinegrass cultivars. Crop Sci. 26:28-32.
Busey, P. 1989. Progress and benefits to humanity from breeding warm-season grasses for turf. p. 49-70 in: D. A. Sleper, K. H. Asay, and J. F. Pedersen (eds.). Contributions from breeding forage and turf grasses. CSSA Spec. Publ. 15, Crop Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
Busey, P. 1990. Inheritance of host adaptation in the southern chinch bug (Heteroptera: Lygaeidae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Amer. 83:563-567.
Busey, P. 1993. Registration of FX-10 St. Augustinegrass. Crop Science 33:214-215.
Busey, P. 1995. Field and laboratory resistance of St. Augustinegrass germplasm to the southern chinch bug. HortScience 30:1253-1255.
Busey, P. 1996. Wilt avoidance in St. Augustinegrass germplasm. HortScience 31: 1135-1138.
Busey, P. 2003. Cultural management of weeds in turfgrass: A review. Crop Science 43:1899-1911.
Busey, P. 2003. St. Augustinegrass. pp. 309-330 in: Casler, M. D., and Duncan, R. R. (eds.). Biology, breeding, and genetics of turfgrasses. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, NJ.
Busey, P. 2003. Winter survival of St. Augustinegrass cultivars. Hortscience 38: 1439-1440.
Busey, P. 2009. Irrigation interval and herbicide reduces dollarweed (Hydrocotyle umbellata) in St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) turf. Internat. Turfgrass Soc. Res. J. 11:1167-1175.
Busey, P., T. K. Broschat, and B. J. Center. 1982. Classification of St. Augustinegrass. Crop Sci. 22:469-473.
Busey, P. and D. L. Johnston. 2006. Impact of cultural factors on weed populations in St. Augustinegrass turf. Weed Sci. 54:961-967.
Busey, P. and B. J. Myers. 1979. Growth rates of turfgrasses propagated vegetatively. Agron. J. 71:817-821.
Busey, P. and G. H. Snyder. 1993. Population outbreak of the southern chinch bug is regulated by fertilization. Int. Turfgrass Soc. J. 7:353-357.
Busey, P. and R. W. White. 1993. South Florida: A center of origin for turfgrass production. Int. Turfgrass Soc. J. 7:863-869.
Busey, P. and E. I. Zaenker. 1992. Resistance bioassay from southern chinch bug (Heteroptera: Lygaeidae) excreta. J. Econ. Entomol. 85:2032-2038.
Fluck, R. C. and P. Busey. 1988. Energy for mowing turfgrass. Trans. ASAE 31:1304-1308.
Reinert, J. A., R. W. Toler, B. D. Bruton, and P. Busey. 1981. Retention of resistance by mutants of 'Floratam' St. Augustinegrass to the southern chinch bug and St. Augustine decline. Crop Sci. 21:464-466.Busey, P. 1995. Genetic diversity and vulnerability of St. Augustinegrass. Crop Sci. 35:322-327.