A surprising discovery in Oregon: zoysiagrass and bermudagrass

The state of Oregon on the West Coast of the United States is well-known for cool-season grass seed production. From ryegrass to kentucky bluegrass, bentgrass to fine fescue, there are vast fields of grass seed in Oregon. But these are all cool-season plants that grow in temperate climates. So I was quite surprised when I visited Dr. Virginia Lehman and Dr. Milt Engelke in early autumn of 2011, on their farm in the Willamette Valley, to find fields planted to zoysiagrass and bermudagrass. Breeding work is underway with these grasses here, not so much for the Oregon market, but for eventual use in the warm-season and tropical areas where these grasses thrive.

Turfgrass breeding is a fascinating subject, and I learned a lot about how zoysia and bermuda varieties are developed, grown, and marketed. Dr. Engelke showed me a tray of Diamond zoysiagrass with its extensive rhizomes and we discussed the management of zoysia for various turfgrass uses.

Zoysia is native to East and Southeast Asia and I am accustomed to seeing it growing in the wild and in managed sites across Asia. To see new types of zoysia in my home state of Oregon was both a surprise and a treat, especially so because I had a chance to discuss this grass with the scientists who are working to develop even better varieties of this species.

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