Cricket-resistant turf in the pipeline
Mole crickets could meet their match in sturdy new Bermudagrass hybrids developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of Georgia (UGA) researchers.
In the Southeast, mole crickets are the top insect pest of lawns and turf. In Georgia, for example, cricket damage and control costs are an estimated $26 million annually, and $170 million in Florida. On golf courses, spraying insecticide to stop mole crickets from marring putting greens and fairways can be a $100,000 annual affair, notes Wayne Hanna, a geneticist who leads ARS' Crop Genetics and Breeding Research Unit in Tifton, Ga.
Hanna teamed with UGA researchers Kris Braman and Will Hudson to systematically screen the ARS lab's Bermudagrass collection for hybrids that naturally deter mole crickets. From 27,000 total hybrids in 1993, they selected 103 having the traits expected of commercial turf. These Bermudagrass selections also ranked highest for resistance to both tawny and southern mole crickets.
In trials, the resistant grasses sustained up to 90 percent less cricket damage than Tifdwarf, Tifgreen and other commercial cultivars used for comparison. A fast-recovering root system or natural repellence may be two possible sources of the strains' resistance.
Hanna's lab has begun propagating sprigs of the Bermudagrass hybrids for large-scale testing in spring 2002. Pending these tests, the grasses could become commercially available in the next few years.
Source: Jan Suszkiw, USDA Agricultural Research Service