Mississippi State University’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station officially released Celebration Hybrid bermudagrass (experimental name MSB 1017) at the 2022 Turfgrass Research Field Day on Sept. 22, 2022, held in Starkville, Miss.
The new cultivar is the first release out of the “Celebration X” breeding program, which stemmed from the idea of cross-pollinating industry standard Celebration bermudagrass with numerous attractive bermudagrass genotypes collected and maintained over the years at MSU to create new lines (grasses). The goal of the program was to take the top characteristics of Celebration and develop new grasses with better cold tolerance, a finer texture, fewer seed heads and less thatch. These grasses will be used in home lawns, golf courses, parks and sports fields across the country and around the world. The Celebration X breeding program was initiated in 2014 as a partnership between MSU and Sod Solutions, a turfgrass research, development and marketing company.
“I first evaluated Celebration bermudagrass while visiting Australia in the late 90s,” said Sod Solutions President Tobey Wagner. “Since then, Celebration has proven itself time and time again as a beautiful, aggressive and drought-resistant grass. We are excited to release the next progenies of Celebration, with Celebration Hybrid being the first official release from the Celebration X Program. Over the past eight years, the team at Mississippi State has done an outstanding job on the research and development of these new cultivars. Congratulations to former MSU breeder Wayne Philley and everyone involved in the release of this new grass.”
Celebration’s ability to block well, resist drought and endure shade better than other bermudas has made it one of the best options on the market over the past two decades.
Philley spearheaded the research and evaluation of this project and thinks Celebration Hybrid is an appropriate name for MSB-1017. “It may also be looked upon as Celebration ‘refined’. I hope turf managers and sod producers who love Celebration will also love Celebration Hybrid. The improvements of finer leaf texture and fewer seedheads may allow it to be even more attractive than Celebration in certain applications,” he shared.
Five grasses from the Celebration X program were chosen to be entered into the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program’s 2019 National Bermudagrass Test. This is a five-year trial being conducted at universities across the U.S. Experimental varieties are evaluated along with commercial varieties. Progress reports for 2020 and 2021 have ranked MSB-1017 at or near the top for fine leaf texture each year when averaged across all sites that reported this trait. Likewise, these progress reports revealed that MSB-1017 is shown to produce very few seedheads compared to all other varieties when averaged across sites in both years.
“It is my hope that we captured improved traits in Celebration Hybrid without losing any of the good traits of Celebration,” Philley said. “Many attractive but diverse genotypes resulted from this breeding project. Much effort has gone into evaluating them. I am confident that Celebration Hybrid is one of the best of the entire group and I hope that it can be utilized by the turf industry throughout its zone of adaptation.”
Celebration Hybrid has been planted in several real-world test applications throughout the Southeast, including three golf courses in Florida: Country Club of Florida in Boyton Beach, Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples and On Top of the World GC in Ocala. Several sod farms have been trialing the grass ahead of its release. Star Farms in Sebring, FL planted Celebration Hybrid plugs in 10,000 Sq. Ft. plots in June 2021 before expanding by 3 acres in June 2022. Quality Turf in Avon Park, FL planted sprigs of Celebration Hybrid as a foundation block in May 2022 on a 3/4 acre.
Superior Turf and Pike Creek Turf Farms, both located in Georgia; Billy Mayfield Farms and Murff Turf Farms in Texas and Inman Sod in North Carolina also have trial plots of Celebration Hybrid.
Celebration Hybrid is the initial release from the Celebration X Program with more to be released next year. Celebration Hybrid will have limited commercial availability by late Summer 2024.
Pictured above (from left): Jay McCurdy, associate professor in Plant and Soil Sciences; Jim Mitchell, licensing associate; Scott Willard, director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station; Wayne Philley, retired research associate and turfgrass breeder; Tobey Wagner, president of Sod Solutions; Roberto Gurgel, Sod Solutions executive director of research; Christian Broucqsault, Sod Solutions chief operating officer; and Mark Kann, Sod Solutions Florida territory manager.