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North Carolina State University releases fast-establishing, low-maintenance turfgrass

November 12, 2021 -  By
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Art Bruneau (Executive Director of NC Sod Producers Association), Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis (NC State), Dr. Grady Miller (NC State) and Linda Bradley (President of NCSPA) at the Lobo Zoysiagrass release at the NC Sod Producers Association Fall Field Day. (Photo courtesy of Sod Solutions)

Art Bruneau (Executive Director of NC Sod Producers Association), Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis (NC State), Dr. Grady Miller (NC State) and Linda Bradley (President of NCSPA) at the Lobo Zoysiagrass release at the NC Sod Producers Association Fall Field Day. (Photo courtesy of Sod Solutions)

North Carolina State University’s Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics program, under the direction of Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis, has released Lobo Zoysiagrass (experimental name XZ 14069). Researchers said they selected Lobo from hundreds of nursery mates for its unusual combination of aggressive establishment and stress tolerance. These traits were later confirmed by six years of multi-location trials under low input conditions.

Zoysiagrasses are warm-season, perennial turfgrasses often used in home lawns, commercial landscapes, and golf courses across the southern U.S. They are generally known for their low maintenance requirements but slow establishment. Lobo is unique because it is fast to establish, drought-tolerant and maintains good color and quality under very low inputs.

“This medium-fine zoysiagrass cultivar is simultaneously well adapted for infrequently managed areas like golf course roughs, roadsides, and airport in-fields,” said Milla-Lewis. “But also for higher-end uses like home lawns, commercial landscapes and golf course fairways where aesthetics are equally important as maintenance. It’s truly a unicorn.”

Lobo Zoysia has been a consistent top performer in roadside trials by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and also a National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) specialty trial. These United States Golf Association funded NTEP trials are currently conducted at eight sites from Florida to New Mexico. The trials are highly competitive and include other warm-season grass species like bermudagrass and buffalograss, known for their superior drought tolerance. Lobo repeatedly received top performance marks at these climatically diverse locations.

Milla-Lewis’s turfgrass breeding program focuses on drought-tolerant warm-season species and tall fescue. She expects to release a new St. Augustinegrass cultivar in 2022.

“Dr. Milla-Lewis is one of the top breeders internationally,” said Tobey Wagner, president of Sod Solutions. “There was no hesitation to help support her program. We think Lobo will be one of the most versatile grasses on the market because of its many improved qualities but also because it will be one of the easiest cultivars out there to maintain with minimal upkeep.”

Lobo Zoysia will be exclusively licensed through Sod Solutions for commercial production and marketing. This release is NC State’s first warm-season turfgrass cultivar from Milla-Lewis’s breeding program that started in 2009.

Lobo Zoysia production will be certified by NC Crop Improvement to ensure the purity of this genetically unique turfgrass. Participating sod farms are steadily increasing the production of Lobo and limited amounts of this zoysiagrass will be available for purchase in the summer of 2022.

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