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Seedhead Prevention In Bermuda Grass

The formation of blooms -- commonly called seedheads -- is often mentioned as a concern of turfgrass managers and architects, due to possible seed formation, and also due to possible pollen and allergy concerns. This is not a factor when these turf-type bermuda grass varieties are kept mowed and maintained as an attractive, healthy turf. Seedheads are rarely found on an improved bermudagrass turf project that is receiving regular maintenance, turf care and mowing - well cared for golf course, sports field, park or home lawn.

Under lower levels of care and maintenance, all varieties of bermudagrass turf will be inclined to bloom more and show more seedheads - this includes the vegetative or hybrid varieties. But, even under these poorer care situations, the bermudagrass blooms need a minimum of three weeks un-mowed to produce any viable seed that might be tracked elsewhere on the turf project. Generally seed set and production is quite low in these turf situations, and any seed that is produced will be low viability. Mowing the turf surface below 5 inches in height will remove any seedheads that do appear, before any seed is actually produced.

Stress is very common in early spring as the soils are trying to warm up and the plants have not yet gotten going fully - usually this is related to cool soils, cooler night air temps and some lack of nutrients -- caused by the cool soils and roots. The best plan to prevent seedhead formation during this transitional period is to fertilize well with fast release nitrogen source and water well - both will stimulate vegetative growth and get the grass growing happily, less stressed, and less blooms. Even if their daytime temperatures are hot right now, doesn't mean the soil has warmed up - if the nights are still cooling down then the soil is also still cool.

Bermudagrass blooms and actual production of seed are enhanced by stress. Poor soil fertility, drought or low moisture conditions, cooler late summer temperatures, high levels of salinity, disease or insect pressure, and shorter day length are conditions that will generally promote the formation of blooms (seed heads) on all bermudagrass varieties. Since most turf sites are not maintained this poorly, it is obvious that the turf manager has very definite control over the seed head production on his project. Regular mowing (at least once per week in season), moderate and regular fertilizer applications, adequate soil moisture, and reduced mowing heights (3/4 - 1 1/2 inches) will generally eliminate this problem.

Under the relatively high humidity levels present on a well maintained turf site, seed development is very poor in the bermudagrass florets (blooms - seed heads). In fact, over 95% of the world's bermudagrass seed supply is produced in the Desert Southwest of the United States, where growing conditions are far less humid than most turfgrass situations.

Certified Turf-Type Bermuda grasses have many advantages that far outrank any remote chance of the grass producing seed on a turf grass project. One benefit is the reduced number of seed heads evident in maintained turf plots of superior turf-type varieties, under national testing, when compared to common bermudagrass. One major benefit to using seeded bermuda grass varieties is the fact that these grass varieties are actually propagated from seed. This makes the planting and establishment of a new turf area much faster and far less expensive than planting a vegetative variety using sod, stolons or plugs. In the Certified seed production fields in Arizona and California, the bermudagrass plants are regularly stressed for higher seed production, and allowed to grow to a height of 16 to 20 inches for better yield and easier harvest of the seed - stress increases the bloom count. Under any normal or even moderate level of turf grass maintenance, it is very rare to see many seed heads or expect viable seed production on a turf grass project or in a lawn.

Now, with that said, there is also a difference among varieties in the number of blooms that Bermuda Grass develops - some vegetative types such as MS Champion (aka Bull's Eye) and Tif419 were chosen specifically for fewer blooms, and they will throw very few blooms, even under the worst of management. Among the seeded Bermudas, there are also variety differences in bloom count - Princess 77 and Yukon bermuda grass probably have the lowest bloom counts which leads to lower seed yields and high seed prices. Managed well, these bermuda grass varieties will not bloom as much as other seeded varieties - if managed poorly, their bloom counts will increase, but still be lower than other bermuda grass varieties.

Read More about Seed Heads & Allergy producing pollen issues.

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