Cattle pasture

Florida’s Naturals

Varieties of Bahia grass grown in a field.

If you’ve ever read any of my articles about pasture establishment or maintenance then you have probably heard of Bahiagrass, Bermudagrass, and Limpograss. These three species largely dominate our planted pastures, and even some of our non-planted pastures. But in reality, these species are non-natives to our country. In fact, not long ago these species were not here.

Bahiagrass is thought to originate in South America, around the border of Brazil and Argentina. It was first introduced by the Bureau of Plant Industry and grown by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station in 1913. Since then, the University of Florida has bred and released different varieties of Bahiagrass, and now it is the number one planted pasture species.

The origin of Bermudagrass is not known specifically, except that it seems to be from Africa. Accounts trace its introduction into the United States, most likely from ships either from India or Africa. It was reportedly introduced in the early 1750s by Georgia’s second royal governor, Henry Ellis, in Savannah. A plant geneticist named Dr. Glenn Burton began breeding bermudagrasses in 1937. He would later develop the breed “Coastal” which is still used today. Dr. Burton would continue to breed new varieties of Bermudagrasses until his death. The University of Florida has also bred varieties of Bermudagrass, and today the Bermudagrass breeding program is run by Dr. Esteban Rios.

Limpograss was first introduced in Florida in 1964. Since then, evaluations have been conducted at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, as well as at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) Plant Materials Center at Arcadia, FL, and at the UF Range Cattle Research and Education Center (REC) at Ona, FL. As a result of these evaluations, four limpograss cultivars were released in Florida in the 1970s and 80s. These cultivars include the diploids ‘Redalta’ and ‘Greenalta’ and the tetraploids ‘Bigalta’ and ‘Floralta’. Recent efforts for limpograss improvement resulted in more than 50 limpograss hybrids that were produced by crossing Floralta and Bigalta. This work has resulted in the release of two cultivars: ‘Gibtuck’ and ‘Kenhy’ in 2014.