R. L. Stanley, Jr.
;l. A. Eason
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville
John T. Woeste, Dean _or n
\ r< I'-
\' c r .r>. -
Bermudagrasses (Cyqodon dactylon L.) Pers. are
important components of the warm-season, peren-
nial pasture and hay grasses in the Southeast. They
are thought to have originated in India, although a
large variation in types exists in Africa and is found
throughout the tropical and subtropical parts of the
world. 'Coastal' bermudagrass was the first of the
improved bermudagrasses developed at the Georgia
Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, and
released in 1953. It is the most widely grown of all
bermudas and is grown in large acreages from North
Carolina to California.
In Florida, Coastal bermudagrass is widely used for
hay where high tonnage of grass hays is needed.
Dairy farmers often use Coastal for hay because of
its yield potential and response to nitrogen and
manure applied from the dairy operation.
Coastal makes an excellent crop to use in rotation
with soybeans or other crops where root-knot
nematodes are a problem. Its resistance to root-knot
nematodes allows many legumes that are suscepti-
ble to this nematode to be overseeded into Coastal
during October and November, thus extending the
grazing season through the winter months.
Overseeding with legumes during the winter months
results in nitrogen being fixed for bermudagrass pro-
duction the next spring, and may be equal to apply-
ing 200 lb/A of commercial nitrogen. Winter annual
grasses grow and produce much higher yields when
planted into Coastal bermudagrass than into
bahiagrass. Recent data has shown that early
varieties of wheat may be drilled into bermudagrass
that has not been tilled (no till) in mid-November and
successfully harvested in early May before the first
Table 1. Characteristics of several Bermudagrasses (Ga.)*.
Description of Bermudagrass Varieties
COASTAL was the first improved bermudagrass.
C I is a cross between Tifton common ber-
ss and a bermuda introduced from Africa.
N ell adapted for use throughout the lower
d is the most widely grown of all ber-
rasses. It may produce a few seedheads, but
ly would the seed be viable.
,OASTCROSS-1 is significantly higher in feeding
'7alue than Coastal. This -bermudagrass, also
developed at Tifton, does not produce rhizomes and
is not cold hardy. It may be killed by severe winters
in north Florida.
CALLIE is a bermudagrass selected from two in-
troduced bermudagrasses at Mississippi State Univer-
sity. Callie is quite digestible and establishes rapid-
ly. It is similar to Coastcross-1 in both digestibility
and establishment rate. It is slightly more cold har-
dy than Coastcross-1.
ALICIA was selected in Texas from a group of in-
troduced bermudagrasses. Alicia is the least digesti-
ble of the bermudagrasses. It establishes easily
(similar to Coastal) and produces yields comparable
TIFTON 44 is the latest of the improved ber-
mudagrasses from the breeding program at Tifton.
Tifton 44 is more digestible than Coastal and less
digestible than Coastcross-1. Tifton 44 is more cold
hardy than any of the other bermudagrasses. It does
not establish as easily as the other bermudagrasses
and should be established with sprigs. A summary
of the yield, digestibility, and cold tolerance is shown
in Table 1.
Production Igestibility Relative Tolerance
Coastal 1 6 100 3
Alicia 1 9 80 4
Coastcross-1 1 1 139 9
Callie 1 2 118 7
Tifton 44 2 4 111 1
*1 = best, 9 = poorest.
D. L. Wright is Associate Professor, Extension Agronomist; R. L. StanleyJr. is Associate Professor, Forage Crops, and M. A. Eason is Assistant
Professor, Agricultural Economics; AREC, Quincy; IFAS, University of F ida, Gainesville, 32611.
Coastal bermudagrass should be planted on a well-
prepared seedbed. The soil pH should be adjusted to
5.8 or higher before planting, especially if legumes
are to be planted into the grass later. Plantings from
sprigs may be made from mid-February through Ju-
ly. Plantings made from vegetative cuttings are
usually made from early May through July. The fall
months are usually not favorable for planting sprigs
or vegetative material because of extended periods
of drought and the need to establish a good root
system before cold weather in November.
Fertilizer should be applied according to soil test
recommendations. Phosphorus should be incor-
porated into the soil before planting, along with lime
needed to bring the minimum CaO level to 600 lb/A
and MgO to 100 lb/A. Micronutrients should also be
added. Nitrogen and potash should be applied at
planting time to stimulate early growth, but this is
not necessary. If plantings are made without benefit
of a soil test, apply approximately 40 lb/A of
nitrogen, 60 lb/A phosphorus (P20O) (A/D 4), (R/D 4)
and 120 lb/A potash (K20).
Establishment of Coastat-5ermudagrass from
vegetative material is best-aeeemplished by using
grass that has 6 to 12 weeks of-fegrowth. Approx-
imately 20 to 30 bu/A of fresh cuttings should be
spread over a moist, well priparred seedbed. Lightly
disk and roll or cultipack thearea immediately after
planting to keep the veget-adve material from dying
out If Coastal is planted with commercial machinery,
the stems should be planted upright with the tops
above the soil surface. Calle-and Coastcross-1 pro-
duce few rhizomes and must-be established from
green cuttings. Fresh cut vegetative material is low-
cost planting material if bald- immediately and
planted within 24 to 36 hours-after harvesting, and
before going through a heat__L.een vegetative
material contains less stored-etnergy and does not
tolerate drying as readily as-spigs or rhizomes.
Coastal may also be established by using 10 to 15
bu/A of sprigs. These sprigs should be planted 2 to
3 inches deep in moist soils. Coastal and Alicia ber-
mudagrass can be established from sprigs or
vegetative material, but Tifton 44 should be
established from sprigs. Properly adjusted commer-
cial sprigging machines do an excellent job. Soil
should be firmed up around the sprigs during the
planting process. Sprigging can be done in late winter
or early spring with success for several reasons: (1)
soil moisture conditions are usually more favorable
in late winter, and (2) sprigs dug before breaking dor-
mancy will have higher levels of food reserves to in-
itiate growth once temperatures are warm enough
for growth. Bermudagrass is dependent on stored
food reserves for initial growth in early spring, until
enough leaf area has developed to sustain growth.
Sprigs that are dug in spring after the grass has
broken dormancy will have lower levels of food
reserves. However, Coastal bermudagrass has been
successfully established from plantings made every
month of the year. The following procedures should
be followed to ensure success:
1. Plant in a moist, fertile, weed-free seedbed.
2. Plant live sprigs soon after digging.
3. Plant sprigs deep enough to ensure against dry-
ing out, and leave tips above soil surface.
4. Cultipack or roll after planting to ensure soil-
5. Control weeds with herbicides at planting time.
6. Fertilize the new growth as soon as stolons
Lack of weed control during establishment may
result in failure to obtain a stand. Use herbicide
recommendations found in Weeds in the Sunshine
for forage crops. Weeds in the Sunshine may be ob-
tained by writing to Extension Agronomy, 303
Newell Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611.
Generally simazine (Princep) at 2.0 lb active ingre-
dient/A controls most broadleaf and grass weeds for
6 to 12 weeks when applied immediately after sprig-
ging or planting. Where broadleaf weeds appear after
sprigging, an application of 2.4-D amine may be ap-
plied at the rate of 1.0 lb active ingredient/A. A thick
stand of weeds can keep stolons from pinning down
and reduce the rate of stand establishment. When
planted under good moisture and fertility conditions,
Coastal should establish a complete ground cover and
be ready for a hay cutting in 8 to 12 weeks.
Fertilization of Coastal bermudagrass is important
for high yields. Phosphorus and micronutrients may
be applied in a single application in the spring of each
year. Nitrogen and potash are more mobile and are
used in large amounts by Coastal; 2 or 3 yearly ap-
plications are required. If a single large application
is made in the spring, more potash than is necessary
for top yields may be taken up by Coastal. The se-
cond fertilizer application may be made in mid-
summer while Coastal is producing at its peak rate.
Fall applications of potash may give little yield
response due to dry weather and cool nights that
Coastal usually shows a greater response to
nitrogen than to the other nutrients. Results at Tif-
ton have shown the following average yields for a
5-year period with 3 rates of nitrogen application:
4.5 tons/A with 100 Ib/A of N; 6.4 tons/A with 200
lb/A of N; and 8.6 tons/A with 400 lb/A of N. Nitrogen
may also be applied in the fall 8 to 10 weeks before
a killing frost to increase the protein value of the
forage if it is to be grazed after frost. Protein con-
tent may be raised by as much as ,.". by the addition
of 150 lb N/A. This increase in protein can greatly
influence animal performance, palatability of the
grass, and the amount of forage wasted by trampl-
ing if used as reserve grazing. Do not make the last
nitrogen application too near the first killing frost;
this increases the chance of winter kill.
Use of Hay and Grazing
Fertility and age of forage are the two most impor-
tant factors affecting the quality of hay or the quality
of forage grazed. Crude protein can range from 4%
on mature, frosted Coastal to 1, on a 3-week
regrowth of well-fertilized bermuda. Data in Table
2 show the importance of cutting Coastal on time to
maintain high quality hay. Animal intake is higher
and gain per animal is greater with frequent cuttings.
At low fertility rates, adequate growth for cutting
may take 10 weeks, resulting in much lower quality
forage than if cut every 4 weeks under higher fer-
tility. Two applications per season of 150 lb N/A are
needed when Coastal is harvested every 4 to 5
weeks. High rates of nitrogen also help maintain high
yields during periods of drought.
Coastal is used widely by dairies in Florida. Milk
production is usually only fair from cows grazing on
it because of moderate fertilization and continuous
grazing. Milk production from Coastal can be raised
significantly by heavier fertilization (especially
nitrogen), rotational grazing, and mowing as
necessary to keep the grass young and succulent.
Even higher production can be obtained if Coastal
is fertilized with 500 lb N/A/year and green chopped
as short as possible every 21 days. Data in Table 3
illustrate how short grazing periods and higher fer-
tility rates can keep protein content of the forage
high. However, total yield is usually reduced with
Bahiagrass is the major forage crop for grazing on
most farms because of its tolerance to continuous
close grazing. However, Coastal bermudagrass is bet-
ter for hay because of its upright growth; ber-
mudagrass starts growth earlier and ends later in the
fall than bahia. Neither of these grasses make any
Table 2. Effect of cutting intervals on dry matter intake, digestibility and daily gain per animal on Coastal bermuda hay (Ga.)
Cutting Dry matter Percent Avg. Daily
Interval Intake, Ib/day Digestibility Gain/animal
4 weeks 11.8 55 1.2 lbs
8 weeks 9.3 53 0.9 lbs
13 weeks 9.5 45 0.0 lbs*
*Adequate for maintenance only
Table 3. Effect of N rate and clipping frequency on yield and protein content of Coastal bermudagrass hay (Ga.)
Clipping Hay (ton/A) Crude Protein, %
(weeks) 100 Ib N/A 600 Ib N/A 100 Ib N/A 600 Ib N/A
2 2.4 7.0 13.6 22.9
3 3.6 7.8 12.9 18.8
4 4.0 8.8 11.2 17.0
8 5.5 11.3 7.8 12.2
root growth before soil temperatures reach 600F.
However, leaf growth of Coastal will start at
temperatures around 55 0F. Generally, Coastal is
grazed or harvested for hay from mid-April to
November. Coastal cut for hay in early May should
yield 2 to 4 times more than bahia cut at the same
time, although later cuttings may be similar. With
low fertility, neither Coastal or bahia yields well, but
Coastal will yield more than bahia at high rates of
fertility. Table 4 shows that Coastal cut for hay every
4 weeks will produce more forage over the season
than bahia cut every 8 weeks.
Army worms may be a problem during periods of
drought. Little damage will be noted if frequent cut-
tings are made. If armyworms are a problem, timely
applications of insecticides are important to control
worms in the young stages.
Spittlebugs may also cause damage to Coastal
fields. The presence of nymphs is shown by a mass
of froth or spittle-like material. The spittlebug is a
dark brown or black insect about 3/8-inch long with
2 orange transverse bands. They usually appear in
Table 4. Forage production of several grasses when harves ed at 3 intervals (Quincy).
Variety 2 weeks 4 weeks 8 weeks
lb dry matter/A
Coastal 10,900 13,100 17,200
Coastcross-1 7,200 11,200 14,500
Callie 10,300 13,100 17,000
Alicia 9,700 12,700 18,700
Argentine Bahia 7,500 8,700 11,300
Pensacola Bahia 6,200 7,700 9,200
Table 5. Estimated Establishment Cost for One Acre of Coa tal Bermuda Grass in North Florida, 1982.*
Item Unit Quant. Price Value Your Cost
Lime ton 1.0 20.00 20.00
Fertilizer (5-10-15 or equivalent) cwt 3.0 7.50 22.50
Custom sprigging (sprigs included) acre 1.0 55.00 55.00
Nitrogen lb 60 .26 15.60
Herbicide lb 2.0 3.75 7.50
Tractor (50 hp) hr 1.75 2.58 4.52
Truck, pickup mi 20 .10 2.00
Equipment hr 1.75 1.04 1.82
Labor hr 2.0 3.75 7.50
Land Rent acre 1 20.00 20.00
Interest on cash expenses $ 156.44 15% (6 mos.) 11.73
Total Cash Expenses 168.17
Tractor (50 hp) hr 1.75 3.12 5.46
Truck, pickup mi 20 .13 2.60
Equipment hr 1.75 3.60 6.30
Total Fixed Expenses 14.36
Total Expenses 182.53
*Add $300 per acre for custom land clearing; includes bulldozing, rot raking, and heavy disking.
June and late August and inject a toxin that causes
the blades of the bermuda to turn brown and look
frosted. These brown areas enlarge as the adults
feed. Spittlebug damage is often the result of infre-
quent cutting caused by a buildup of a mat of forage.
Therefore, the best control is frequent cutting or
grazing to a short stubble height. Insecticides can be
used for control. Burning Coastal in February helps
control spittlebugs if a dense mat of forage has been
allowed to accumulate. Consult with the county ex-
tension service for recommendations of insectides.
Economics of Coastal Production
The following tables show the cost of establishing
and maintaining Coastal bermudagrass in Florida.
Table 6. Coastal Bermuda Hay: Estimated Production and Harvesting Expenses Per Acre, North Florida, 1982.*
Value Your Cost
Fertilizer (5-10-15 or equivalent)
Tractor (50 hp)
Interest on cash expenses
Total Cash Expenses
Custom mow, rake, bale
Labor (machine loading)
Tractor (50 hp) & Equipment
Total Harvest Expenses
Tractor & Equipment
Establishment (Prorated over 10 years)
Total Fixed Expenses
15% (6 mos.)
*Assumes hay harvested round bales (1000 lb.)
Table 7. Coastal Bermuda Hay; Net returns per acre with varying yields and prices.*
Yield Per Acre (Tons)
Price 4 5 6 7 8
*Adjusted for changes in harvest cost
Your cost may vary from those cited in these tables.
' N nost pr oPstl '"ill hi *- hi;1
yiem.; :I e'
and break-even prices per. om
;a i.u-l, .1 for different li.i1 .. .
Table 8. Coastal Bermuda Break-,
Yield (tons/acre) Price/ton
6 55.00 |
C' 17 "i
,f ll I, |, h -, r. ... J. I .4
This publication was promulgated at a cost oD
$754.73, or 15.1 cents per copy, to provide in
formation on efficient production of coastal
COGrER. TI,: E E)TErISIN _.,- IC.'r41I
VERSIT / OF FLORIDA, r.NSTIT,_TE OF F,-,,D
AND AGHICuLTURAL CIECES, K E
Tefertiller, 3're t-1.,3r, ,r, ;,:, aD* i3r ,r. .* ,Jr, -rr
this Ir,.,rmrn ,.,r. Ir, fi n nr In r,- o r .:,, ,! T In 1 r1a,
dual; 3na .r'n ltl lcri nr.r lur.:. ..rn ". rl.'uI r.) ,3 iT r3:., :,:,1i
sex .or noal*...r. ,i -r rg :* .1 .* r~t Car...
( e x c ., r .,. 45 F 4 J .] o r -.t r ic,,J h .: 3 i -. c r 3 5 L. I fr 1. FI j, i-.
resicesr I rrr C.-,r Ep?_a-.,',n ,as p :- .; h ter, at, ar, c1, rar
or copies for out-of-state purchasers is available from C. M. Hintot'
Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this publica-
tion, editors should contact this address to determine availability.