This is a media summary for the independent research which we reference on The Lawn Guide, entitled Adaptation and Management of Australian Buffalo Grass Cultivars for Shade and Water Conservation.
This is the most extensive research ever conducted in the world into the true characteristics of Buffalo Grass being sold in Australia.
The research was conducted by Horticulture Australia and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. It is a Copyrighted document which will require purchase from its owner.
Find out more about this document at QLD Dept of Primary Industries and Fisheries
Original media summary source here
Soft-leaf buffalo grass is increasing in popularity as an amenity turfgrass in Australia. This project was instigated to assess the adaptation of and establish management guidelines for its use in Australia’s vast array of growing environments. There is an extensive selection of soft-leaf buffalo grass cultivars throughout Australia and with the country’s changing climes from temperate in the south to tropical in the north not all cultivars are going to be adapted to all regions. The project evaluated 19 buffalo grass cultivars along with other warm-season grasses including green couch, kikuyu and sweet smother grass.
The soft-leaf buffalo grasses were evaluated for their growth and adaptation in a number of regions throughout Australia including Western Australia, Victoria, ACT, NSW and Queensland. The growth habit of the individual cultivars was examined along with their level of shade tolerance, water use, herbicide tolerance, resistance to wear, response to nitrogen applications and growth potential in highly alkaline (pH) soils.
The growth habit of the various cultivars currently commercially available in Australia differs considerably from the more robust type that spreads quicker and is thicker in appearance (Sir Walter, Kings Pride, Ned Kelly and Jabiru) to the dwarf types that are shorter and thinner in appearance (AusTine and AusDwarf).
Soft-leaf buffalo grass types tested do not differ in water use when compared to “old-style” common buffalo grass. Thus, soft-leaf buffalo grasses, like other ‘warm-season’ turfgrass species, are efficient in water use. These grasses also recover after periods of low water availability. Individual cultivar differences were not discernible.
In high pH soils (i.e. on alkaline-side) some elements essential for plant growth (e.g. iron and manganese) may be deficient causing turfgrass to appear pale green, and visually unacceptable. When 14 soft-leaf buffalo grass genotypes were grown on a highly alkaline soil (pH 7.5-7.9), cultivars differed in leaf iron, but not in leaf manganese, concentrations.
Nitrogen is critical to the production of quality turf. The methods for applying this essential element can be manipulated to minimise the maintenance inputs (mowing) during the peak growing period (summer). By applying the greatest proportion of the turf’s total nitrogen requirements in early spring, peak summer growth can be reduced resulting in a corresponding reduction in mowing requirements. Soft-leaf buffalo grass cultivars are more shade and wear tolerant than other warm-season turfgrasses being used by homeowners. There are differences between the individual buffalo grass varieties however. The majority of types currently available would be classified as having moderate levels of shade tolerance and wear reasonably well with good recovery rates. The impact of wear in a shaded environment was not tested and there is a need to investigate this as this is a typical growing environment for many homeowners.
The use of herbicides is required to maintain quality soft-leaf buffalo grass turf. The development of ‘softer’ herbicides for other turfgrasses has seen an increase in their popularity. The buffalo grass cultivars currently available have shown varying levels of susceptibility to the chemicals tested. The majority of the cultivars evaluated have demonstrated low levels of phytotoxicity to the herbicides chlorsulfuron (Glean™) and fluroxypyr (Starane™ and Comet™).
In general, soft leaf buffalo grasses are varied in their makeup and have demonstrated varying levels of tolerance/susceptibility/adaptation to the conditions they are grown under. Consequently, there is a need to choose the cultivar most suited to the environment it is expected to perform in and the management style it will be exposed to. Future work is required to assess how the structure of the different cultivars impacts on their capacity to tolerate wear, varying shade levels, water use and herbicide tolerance. The development of a growth model may provide the solution.