Golf Course Management

NOV 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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72 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 11.14 A century of seeded bermudagrass production — and more to come Bermudagrass has evolved from a 'wily' weed to a multimillion-dollar industry. Arden A. Baltensperger, Ph.D. Bermudagrass may have been introduced to the United States from Africa hundreds of years ago when hay contaminated with the grass seed was used for bedding on slave ships. Since those less than illustrious beginnings, seeded bermudagrass has become a multimil - lion-dollar crop, grossing well over $36 mil- lion in 2013. Although the exact date is not certain, Common bermudagrass (Cynodon dacty - lon) seed production and marketing began in Yuma County in western Arizona around 1915. Bermudagrass was well adapted to the area's warm climate and saline soil conditions and readily invaded the local alfalfa seed pro - duction felds. By 1917, Roy Hansberger, an alfalfa farmer in the county, was separating bermudagrass (weed) seed from alfalfa seed with hand-held sieves, but it is believed that he had been selling bermudagrass seed for several years before then. After 1920, W.R. (Bill) Whitman and Glen Quick, who had production felds near Blythe, Calif., were the frst to grow and sell bermudagrass seed on a commercial scale. At this time, bermudagrass fnally gained legiti - macy as a cash crop instead of a weed. Dur- ing World War II, bermudagrass seed produc- tion in the U.S. increased dramatically as the government used the seed to build airstrips in North Africa. William Kneebone, Ph.D., dis - cussed the introduction of bermudagrass into the United States and its status as a noxious weed in several states in his publication "Ber - mudagrass — worldly, wily, wonderful weed." Top: In the period around 1915, hand sieves were most likely used to separate bermudagrass seed from alfalfa seed. The brown seeds are alfalfa and the gray or white seeds are unhulled bermudagrass. Photo by Z. Baltensperger Bottom, left: A stationary thresher, circa 1940. Image courtesy of the author Bottom, right: A modern combine used for harvesting bermudagrass seed. Photo by J. Klingenberger

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