Mississippi State University Releases Celebration Hybrid™ Bermudagrass

A group checking out a plot at the 2022 MSU Turfgrass Field Day.

Mississippi State University’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station officially released Celebration Hybrid™ Bermudagrass (experimental name MSB 1017) at the 2022 Turfgrass Research Field Day on Sept. 22, 2022, held in Starkville, MS.

The new cultivar is the first release out of the “Celebration X” breeding program, which 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 goal of the program 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. The Celebration X breeding program was initiated in 2014 as a partnership between MSU and Sod Solutions, a turfgrass research, development and marketing company.

“I first evaluated Celebration Bermudagrass while visiting Australia in the late 90s,” said Sod Solutions President Tobey Wagner. “Since then, Celebration has proven itself time and time again as a beautiful, aggressive and drought-resistant grass. We are excited to release the next progenies of Celebration, with Celebration Hybrid being the first official release from the Celebration X Program. Over the past eight years, the team at Mississippi State has done an outstanding job on the research and development of these new cultivars. Congratulations to former MSU breeder Wayne Philley and everyone involved in the release of this new grass.”

Celebration’s ability to block well, resist drought and endure shade better than other bermudas has made it one of the best options for homes, sports, golf, commercial areas and parks.

Philley spearheaded the research and evaluation of this project and thinks Celebration Hybrid is an appropriate name for MSB-1017. “It may also be looked upon as Celebration ‘refined’. I hope turf managers and sod producers who love Celebration will also love Celebration Hybrid. The improvements of finer leaf texture and fewer seedheads may allow it to be even more attractive than Celebration in certain applications,” he shared.

Celebration Hybrid Bermudagrass announced at the 2022 MSU Turfgrass Field Day in Starkville, MS.

Philley, a former research associate in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, considers Celebration to be an outstanding, unique bermudagrass cultivar and as a turfgrass evaluator and breeder he’s been observing the performance of the grass in university research plots as well as sod production fields since its release over 20 years ago.

“Celebration establishes rapidly to form a high-density, full-canopy turf over a range of mowing heights. Sod producers are pleased with its good sod harvesting ability and consistent tensile strength. From a breeding perspective, I became even more interested in Celebration because of its taxonomic designation and genetics (Cynodon dactylon). This means that Celebration is a tetraploid plant with 36 chromosomes,” Philley said.

“This also implied that Celebration may be a fertile plant that could be used as a parent in a breeding program. Most bermudagrass cultivars that are vegetatively propagated and marketed as sod are triploid (27 chromosomes). These triploid bermudagrasses are sterile and cannot be used in a conventional breeding program,” he added.

Philley explained their goal was to reduce the number of seedheads in Celebration, which are considered undesirable and disrupt the uniformity of the turf surface. Also, the leaf texture of Celebration is coarser (wider) than some widely used cultivars. Celebration Hybrid (MSB-1017) is a fine-leafed, sterile triploid bermudagrass.

Celebration Hybrid Bermudagrass.

“Hopefully Celebration Hybrid will perform as an improvement in some respects over its seed parent (mother plant) Celebration. Celebration Hybrid resulted from interspecific hybridization between Celebration and an African bermudagrass (Cynodon transvaalensis) selection,” Philley explained.

Celebration Hybrid was tested in three separate variety trials at MSU against 83 sister or related plants including Celebration. Celebration Hybrid ranked at or near the top in all three trials for each of the numerous performance traits evaluated.

From these three MSU trials, five Celebration X progeny were chosen to be entered into the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program’s 2019 National Bermudagrass Test. This is a five-year trial being conducted at universities across the U.S. Experimental varieties are evaluated along with commercial varieties. Progress reports for 2020 and 2021 have ranked MSB-1017 at or near the top for fine leaf texture each year when averaged across all sites that reported this trait. Likewise, these progress reports revealed that MSB-1017 is shown to produce very few seedheads compared to all other varieties when averaged across sites in both years.

“The Celebration X breeding program has required a tremendous amount of effort from many people. It has been a pleasurable and rewarding experience for me. I give God all the credit for the success of this program. When doing conventional breeding that involves sexual reproduction of plants for single genotype selection, one can never be certain of the outcome. God is in control. It is my hope that we captured improved traits in Celebration Hybrid without losing any of the good traits of Celebration,” Philley said. “Many attractive but diverse genotypes resulted from this breeding project. Much effort has gone into evaluating them. I am confident that Celebration Hybrid is one of the best of the entire group and I hope that it can be utilized by the turf industry throughout its zone of adaptation.”

Celebration Hybrid has been planted in several real-world test applications throughout the Southeast, including three golf courses in Florida: Country Club of Florida in Boyton Beach, Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples and On Top of the World GC in Ocala. Several sod farms have been trialing the grass ahead of its release. Star Farms in Sebring, FL planted Celebration Hybrid plugs in 10,000 Sq. Ft. plots in June 2021 before expanding by 3 acres in June 2022. Quality Turf in Avon Park, FL planted sprigs of Celebration Hybrid as a foundation block in May 2022 on a 3/4 acre. 

Superior Turf and Pike Creek Turf Farms, both located in Georgia; Billy Mayfield Farms and Murff Turf Farms in Texas and Inman Sod in North Carolina also have trial plots of Celebration Hybrid.

Celebration Hybrid is the initial release from the Celebration X Program with more to be released next year. Celebration Hybrid will be exclusively licensed through Sod Solutions for commercial production and marketing.

Celebration Hybrid will have limited commercial availability by late Summer 2024. Any sod farms with questions on this cultivar that are interested in plant stock can email Christian Brouqsualt at [email protected].

Pictured in the header image at the 2022 MSU Turfgrass Field Day in Starkville, MS on Sept. 22, 2022 (from left) are Jay McCurdy, associate professor in Plant and Soil Sciences; Jim Mitchell, licensing associate; Scott Willard, director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station; and Wayne Philley, retired research associate and turfgrass breeder; Tobey Wagner, President of Sod Solutions; Roberto Gurgel, Sod Solutions Executive Director of Research; Christian Broucqsault, Sod Solutions Chief Operating Officer; and Mark Kann, Sod Solutions Florida Territory Manager.

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