Inaugural Celebration Hybrid™ Bermudagrass Field Day Draws Big Crowd at Star Turf Farms
Sod Solutions held a Celebration Hybrid™ Bermudagrass Field Day on the morning of Oct. 31 at Star Turf Farms in Indiantown, FL. The event gathered over 70 prospective turfgrass producers, turfgrass installers, sports field managers, golf course superintendents architects and industry professionals together to see the first release from the Celebration X Breeding Program in a farm setting. The event started with coffee, doughnuts and breakfast sausages prepared by Everglades Equipment Group.
Christian Brouqsault and Mark Kann with Sod Solutions shared details about the new grass as well as licensing and trial information. Celebration Hybrid™ Bermudagrass breeder, Mr. Wayne Philley of Mississippi State University gave a presentation on the new cultivar, the first release of the “Celebration X” breeding program in September 2022.
The program stemmed from the idea of cross-pollinating Celebration® Bermudagrass with numerous attractive bermudagrass genotypes collected and maintained over the years at MSU to create new lines. The program’s goal was to take all of the top characteristics of Celebration while developing new lines with better cold tolerance, a finer texture, fewer seed heads and less thatch. Celebration Hybrid resulted from interspecific hybridization between Celebration and an African bermudagrass (Cynodon transvaalensis) selection.
At the field day, Philley said he gives all credit to God, because all he did was put the pollen of C. transvaalensis onto a Celebration seed head, held it in his hand and put it into a germinator and then transfer the seedling into a pot. “From there I started planting 72 cell plug trays and then we started the material transfer agreements. All you guys who have evaluated it, I truly appreciate it and it’s an honor to be standing here. It’s very humbling. It’s very gratifying to see it on the move,” he said.
During the field day, attendees got the chance to dive deep into the experiences of many turfgrass growers who have cultivated the Celebration Hybrid™. They have heard insights from sports and golf course professionals who have hands-on experience with this variety, trialing at their facilities. They generously shared their perspectives on this exciting new variety.
B.J. Haunert, Vice President of Production at Modern Turf in Rembert, SC, spoke at the Celebration Hybrid Field Day, sharing that they can’t keep enough Celebration® Bermudagrass on their farm right now. “As far as Hybrid goes, we see many courses are going to the same mowing height, melds out to the waste areas or tree lines. They’re looking for fast and firm even in fairways, and this one, by far we’ve seen more of those conditions with it,” Haunert said. He also said they’ve noticed better rollout and ability to dry out with Hybrid than the other Celebration X lines. “We’re moving forward as quickly as possible on our commercial production with this.”
Star Turf Farms General Manager Jon Lallement thanked the attendees for visiting their farm so they could showcase Celebration Hybrid. “We truly believe this is going to give us another great variety to be able to offer our customers. Some of the great features include the darker green colors, the tight density, it requires less mowing compared to other varieties and it also stacks and rolls up very well. It is a very grower-friendly grass,” he said. “ We have sent out a tremendous amount of this grass so far this year with nothing but great success and customer satisfaction. We also hope that by visiting Star Turf Farms today, it will let everyone see that we only grow quality, fumigated turfgrass, here in South Florida. We have had huge success with regular Celebration® Bermudagrass over the years, and we believe that we will have the same or better success with Celebration™ Hybrid.”
His colleague, George Farmer, the golf and sports representative at Star Turf Farms, also spoke at the Field Day. Farmer has 23 years of experience as a golf course superintendent and he’s lived in south Florida since 2009. He shared they currently have 60 acres of Celebration Hybrid planted, with plans to expand. Farmer told the attendees that the fields the event was being hosted on were recently under four inches of water in October but had already greened up extremely well since drying out. He also explained that since they’re held to a high standard of Best Management Practices (BMPs), especially Nitrogen, for the attendees to note they weren’t pushing the grass as you would on a golf course with a fertility program or putting out micro packages.
Ryan Swilley the director of agronomy at The Dye Preserve Golf Club in Jupiter, FL, was also at the event. He previously worked at Gulf Stream Golf Club in Delray Beach, FL, and has trialed Celebration Hybrid at both courses. He shared the farm-to-field quality in South Florida as something that’d been missing for a long time but complimented Star Turf Farms for a stellar experience. “It’s really good to have grass show up on your property that you feel like you can be proud of and roll out and be ready to go pretty shortly after it hits the ground.”
Swilley has noticed Celebration Hybrid has tight density and that a golf ball is able to sit up on the grass. One of the perceived advantages he sees with Celebration Hybrid is the ball will hit the face and tends to roll back down into the bunker rather than getting caught up in the grass. He also says it stays tighter and produces less thatch than traditional Celebration. He planted Celebration Hybrid next to Celebration, noting the subtle color difference might not be noticeable to those trying out the new variety, especially if they’re worried members might notice.
Following the presentations and testimonials at the Field Day, all attendees walked to a field several blocks over to watch harvesters cut big sod rolls of Celebration Hybrid. The Magnum sod harvester pushed the cut sod onto a conveyor. Farm staff would then cut the grass once the tight roll was ready and it would roll off the back of the harvester; by mid-afternoon, they were loaded onto a truck for delivery.
After the harvest demonstration, Everglades Equipment Group served lunch for all attendees. Special thanks to Everglades for providing delicious food and to Star Turf Farms for hosting such a successful and informative event.
For more information about Celebration Hybrid Bermudagrass, click here.
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.