Phil Busey Agronomy
Consulting Inc.




Zoysia in Kingston, Jamaica, street

Zoysiagrasses are naturally distributed (Ohwi, 1965) and grown extensively as a turf (Maki, 1976) in temperate east Asia, and two species extend throughout Malesia (Goudswaard, 1980). Unlike other warm-season grasses, zoysiagrasses flower in response to short days (Youngner, 1961). Because of their high density and rhizomatous growth habit, zoysiagrasses tend to crowd out other plants.

Zoysia was probably involved in the first recorded reference to turf, in the "Man-yo-shu", a collection of poems from 759 A.D. (Maki, 1976). Subsequent references to sodding occurred in the "Saku-tei-ki", a gardening book published in Japan in 1156. According to Maki (1976) the lawn garden was connected with the tea ceremony, and commercial sod farming began in 1701. Zoysia japonica Steud. and other species grow wild in native grasslands in Japan. A finer species, Z. matrella (L.) Merr., was introduced to Japan from China in 1713. In the late 1920's "Koraishiba" (Zoysia sp.) was used on the course at the Kobe Golf Club in Japan (Kakuda, 1987). By 1970 there were 26 cultivars of Zoysia reported in Japan (Kitamura, 1970, cited by Maki, 1976).

Zoysiagrass was introduced to the United States before 1895 (Hanson et al., 1974). In 1902 David Fairchild (1938) observed "Birodoshiba" (Z. pungens Willd. = Z. matrella) growing as a velvet-like turf in gardens around Tokyo. He introduced P.I. 9299, which may have been the first recorded zoysiagrass in the U. S. In 1912 Piper observed attractive lawns of zoysiagrass in the Philippines (Piper, 1915). The value of zoysia in the United States was immediately obvious when it was introduced. By 1916 it was stated that zoysiagrass "seems to be succeeding in Florida as a lawn grass" and "is worthy of trial in sand-hill districts or on saline lands near the coast" (Fairchild, 1920). Zoysia has been used principally in the warm and cool season transitional belt from New England to Missouri and further south.

Clonal selections from the United States have included Zoysia japonica Steud. 'Meyer' (1951, U. S. Dept. of Agric. and U. S. Golf Assoc.), which is adapted to the north Atlantic coast of the United States, and Z. japonica X Z. matrella var. pacifica Goudswaard (= Z. tenuifolia Thiele = Z. tenuifolia Willd. ex Trin.) cultivar 'Emerald' (Forbes, 1962). Because of the extensive cross-compatibility of zoysia species (Forbes, 1952), they may be considered as one species (Forbes, personal communication). Z. matrella is grown in south Asia (Greenfield, 1974) but establishes slowly in Kenya (Bogdan, 1970). In addition to its slow establishment, major problems with zoysiagrasses include excessive thatch development (Dunn et al., 1981), and nematodes (Busey et al., 1982; Grisham et al., 1974).

There has been renewed interest in the use of zoysia in low-maintenance areas, for example, roadsides, where it might be intermixed with other species, e.g., tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). Strains of Z. japonica or possibly Z. micrantha from Korea have shown promise for establishment from seed.

Scientific Papers on Zoysiagrass

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. and B. J. Myers. 1979. Growth rates of turfgrasses propagated vegetatively. Agron. J. 71:817-821.

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. 2003. Cultural management of weeds in turfgrass: A review. Crop Science 43:1899-1911.

Busey, P., J. A. Reinert, and R. A. Atilano. 1982. Genetic and environmental determinants of zoysiagrass adaptation in a subtropical region. J. Am. Soc. Hort. Sci. 107:79-82.