CitraBlue® St. Augustine Spotlight – The Research, The Release, The Launch
February 2020 Update
Continued research and evaluation of some of the most promising lines of St. Augustine grasses received a helping hand in 2015. In order to continue this valuable research, it was necessary for the University of Florida to raise additional research dollars. Four years ago, the University of Florida and the Turfgrass Producers of Florida (TPF) came together with a plan enabling the St. Augustine research program to move forward. It was then that 23 grower members from TPF agreed to provide the additional dollars needed for four more years of research. Dr. Kevin Kenworthy, a well-known turfgrass breeder with the assistance of plant pathologist Dr. Phil Harmon and entomologist Dr. Adam Dale, began to focus their research on identifying and testing numerous lines of St. Augustine grasses to find one equal to or better than Floratam. Their goal was to develop a St. Augustine grass with improved drought tolerance and better disease resistance that exhibited a rich, dark color. Additionally, they desired a grass with better shade and cold tolerance as compared to Palmetto® St. Augustine or Raleigh. Lines that proved promising, thus making the short list, were planted at production centers around the state. This allowed the growers to evaluate and provide valuable feedback on disease pressures, how long the grow-in period took, nutritional inputs and the overall performance.
After many years of research and evaluations, the University of Florida announced the release of FSA1602, now known as CitraBlue® St. Augustine. The release and introduction of CitraBlue took place in 2018 at The Landscape Show in Orlando. Here is a list of the attributes CitraBlue possesses and why CitraBlue was chosen for release over other tested lines of St. Augustine that were evaluated:
· Striking blue-green color
· Very good shade tolerance
· Resistance to take-all root rot, large patch, Pythium and grey leaf spot
· Very dense canopy, great for weed control
· Good turf quality under drought conditions
· More lateral growth versus vertical growth, so less mowing.
TPF, the Florida Foundation Seed Producers and the University of Florida all worked on securing licensing for CitraBlue. Sod Solutions, who markets patented and trademark grasses, will handle the licensing of growers and other administrative procedures on behalf of TPF. A minimal amount of grass, about 4,500 sq. ft., was made available in 2018 to those growers who were interested in establishing a seed bed to use for future expansions. A. Duda & Sons along with H&H Sod were the two growers
chosen to supply that grass.
One year after the release and introduction of CitraBlue, a soft launch took place at the 2019 Landscape Show in Orlando. Through a combined effort between Sod Solutions and the University of Florida, booths were set up and staffed by University of Florida professors Dr. Kevin Kenworthy, Dr. K.H. Quesenberry and several employees from Sod Solutions. During the three-day event, hundreds of curious landscapers and homeowners armed with various questions visited the booths. As a thank you to those who stopped by, samples of CitraBlue neatly placed in small white terracotta pots were given away. The main takeaway message was currently, CitraBlue is available only in small quantities as farms are using most of their limited inventory for expansions. Larger inventories are expected around the fall of 2020 at which time a full launch of CitraBlue will begin with farms offering larger quantities and continuous sales. It is estimated that 600 to 1,000 acres will be available by the third quarter of 2020. In order to place more CitraBlue into the landscape, growers that planted seed beds and have some available inventory have been encouraged to find landscapers or customers that would be willing to install a small job or two. Initially, delivery addresses for any sales of CitraBlue will be recorded, so periodical visits during and after the establishment period can be made.
Sod Solutions will continue to market CitraBlue at upcoming turfgrass related trade shows. Sod Solutions is also open to any city, county, state or other organizations that may be open to a lunch & learn. Please reach out to Erin Wilder at [email protected] if you have an interest in a lunch & learn at your place of business. Lastly, be sure to check out other Turf Talk blogs on CitraBlue such as CitraBlue St. Augustine Research and Breeding Process and CitraBlue St. Augustine’s Introduction at the 2019 ASLA Conference.
CitraBlue® St. Augustine grass was developed by the University of Florida’s turfgrass breeding program under a sponsored Research Service Agreement with the Turfgrass Producers of Florida, Inc. (TPF). CitraBlue St. Augustine is exclusively licensed to TPF by Florida Foundation Seed Producers, Inc., a direct support organization of the University of Florida. CitraBlue is marketed by Sod Solutions, Inc. and is now available throughout Florida.