Southern Turf Hawaii recently started growing and harvesting CitraBlue® St. Augustine. The company, in Mililani, has supplied Hawaii with residential, commercial, retail and golf course sod and grass for more than 20 years.
President of Southern Turf Hawaii, Danny Green, says he’s excited about this new grass variety. His business is a partner of The Woerner Companies and for years only grew Woerner’s Classic St. Augustine variety.
Green was at the University of Florida in 2012 meeting with Dr. Kevin Kenworthy, professor and turfgrass breeder when CitraBlue stood out to him for the first time. The variety was developed by the University of Florida turfgrass breeding program under the sponsored Research Service Agreement with the Turfgrass Producers of Florida, Inc.
“The blue, green color just really stands out. And most St. Augustines are mowed higher, so the height of the cut is higher than say a bermudagrass,” Green said. “CitraBlue’s leaf blade stands straight up and very striking blue, green and that’s what I was looking for; contrast as well as drought-tolerance.”
CitraBlue is an improved St. Augustine turfgrass variety that is identified as a drought-tolerant grass by the SCRI federally funded research program in which it was developed.
Green explained water is very expensive in Hawaii, so the drought tolerance of CitraBlue is an added benefit. As they continue the beginnings of learning about the variety, Green shared they’re pleased with how it made it through Hawaii’s winter with no moisture leaf spot or fungal diseases on the single field of CitraBlue they produced.
Hawaii and Australia are two of the first locations outside of the continental United States that Sod Solutions is expanding CitraBlue. Currently, it is being harvested and sold in Hawaii and still in the quarantine process in Australia. Both have tropical, warm climates which are also where this variety is most popular.
Green shared that there are two main reasons why St. Augustine grasses are popular in Hawaii. First, he says because they perform well in shady and rainy areas. With a lot of microclimates on the islands, he said some neighborhoods may have several different grass varieties depending on shade and moisture. The other reason is that a lot of the landscape architects prefer the look of what Green called “old Hawaii” with palm trees and St. Augustine grass.
“We don’t have freezing or dormancy in Hawaii, so with the shallow root system of St. Augustine, it seems to do really well here,” Green said.
He said that CitraBlue can perform well in both older neighborhoods with lots of trees and newer ones that have a lot of shade due to homes being built closer together or because of privacy fences.
“There are times where St. Augustine is the only turfgrass that will thrive,” Green added.
“Our customers are really liking the color and the fact that it spreads quickly if they are doing projects like plugging or stolons,” he shared. “We look forward to how rapidly this grass expands. It’s good for big project planting too.”
Southern Turf Hawaii doesn’t grow sod in native soil. Instead, it’s grown on top of plastic film, in fields that are roughly 9,000 square feet. Green explains they use green waste compost as a root zone and it is virtually weed-free.
Due to how it’s grown, the sod is a very light and clean product to ship between the islands. Green explained they can bring a crop in during the summer and turn it around in about three months.
He explains that CitraBlue probably won’t expand to more than an acre and a half in production, because they will plant and continuously turn over smaller areas. Southern Turf Hawaii considers CitraBlue its premium St. Augustine variety.
Green has only been selling CitraBlue for several weeks now to several homeowners but he thinks that will change as it becomes more popular over time.“My anticipation is it ends up in some of the resorts and hotels that do luaus, banquets and weddings because this grass recovers so quickly,” he said.
He said a lot of those venues are picturesque with big shady trees, but it is very difficult to grow grass there. Not only due to shade but also because of the heavy foot traffic.
“There’s an incredible amount of traffic when tourism is normal. Right now I think we’re at about 25% of tourism,” Green said. “It’s pretty early. I like the intense color and vigor of this grass and I think as we begin selling it to some of these resorts, they will notice the drought tolerance difference.”
Green complimented the versatility of Sod Solution’s Celebration® Bermudagrass variety. Southern Turf Hawaii originally brought Celebration in because the VA wanted bermudagrass installed at the“Punchbowl”, or The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, for the ease of maintenance, fertilization and other agronomic reasons. Southern Turf Hawaii installed 40 acres of Celebration at the cemetery, where although it’s in the full sun, Green said the historic trees cast a lot of shade.
“Celebration grows right up to the trunks of those trees,” he shared. “Celebration fit right into that agenda.”
Green traveled to Louisiana State University to see the variety before bringing it in for the VA’s installation. He said he quickly admired how incredible Celebration looked on LSU’s sports fields.
“We do golf courses out here and when the Kapalua on Maui (Plantation Course at Kapalua) called us about their re-do, Celebration fit perfectly. They are wall to wall Celebration, except for the greens,” he said. “It’s a PGA event course and they had a wonderful event this past year.”
For more information on Southern Turf Hawaii, click here. For more information on CitraBlue, click here.
Weekly progression picture series of CitraBlue of plugs installed at a home in Hawaii. Sod plugs provided by Southern Turf Hawaii.
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.