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INDUSTRY Georgia turf goes to Cuba

Georgia-bred turfgrasses to blanket Cuban golf courses by Sharon Dowdy & Clint Waltz, University of Georgia

University of Georgia-licensed turfgrass may soon be growing on Cuban golf courses, sports fields and resorts.

Trough a new co- operative agreement, the UGA College of Agricultural and En- vironmental Sciences’ turfgrass research team is working with Dr. Luis Hernandez, a scientist at the Uni- versity of Matanzas in the Matanzas, Cuba.

Waltz and Hernandez look at research plots.

“Cuban research fo- cuses on management and identification of grasses best adapted

for Cuba, which has a 12-month growing sea- son,” said Clint Waltz, a turfgrass specialist with UGA Cooperative Extension.

Last winter, Waltz visited Hernandez at the Indio Hatuey Research Station in Cuba and Cuba’s only championship golf course at Varadero Beach.

Hernandez came to Georgia in June for a week- long turfgrass tour led by Waltz. Here, Hernan- dez had an opportunity to attend a Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association training then toured the UGA Golf Course in Athens, Sanford Stadium, the facilities at the Georgia Crop Improvement Association and Georgia Seed Development Commission, the Atlanta Athletic Club, Piedmont Park, Turner Field, East Lake Golf Club and Pike Creek Turf in Adel.

“On the first day of his visit, Luis was able to see how our golf course superintendents value pro- fessional development and continuing education. We attended some of the educational sessions of the Annual Bulldog Classic held at the UGA Golf Course. Troughout the week’s visits he was able


to talk with all the individuals who manage these sites about how they maintain turf in different conditions and about their clients’ expectations,” Waltz said. “Baseball is Cuba’s national sport so I really wanted him to see Turner Field as he has worked with the national stadium in Havana. Also, I wanted Luis to see how golf courses are maintained at a championship level. All three of the golf courses we visited host professional tour- naments and provided examples of the quality golfers demand. Additionally, as Cuba urbanizes the desire for greenspace and common use turf- grass areas will increase. Te trip to Piedmont Park demonstrated the challenges of maintain- ing quality turfgrass and safe conditions on a multiuse area. Finally, Pike Creek holds many of UGA’s licensed varieties and they have the ability to ship grass internationally. Te visit to Pike Creek provided Luis an opportunity to see how grasses are grown specifically for golf and sports field use and, how sprigs are prepared prior to international shipping.”

Most of the turfgrass varieties Pike Creek Turf ships are UGA-developed varieties with the most popular being Tifway bermudagrass, said Jaimie Allen, the company’s president.

“We also ship a lot of Tifdwarf, TifEagle and SeaIsle Supreme,” he said.

Pike Creek ships turfgrass internationally to China, Vietnam, Spain, Bermuda, Te Bahamas, Mexico, Dubai, Indonesia, Te Philippines, Mor- roco and Te Dominican Republic, he said.

While in Georgia, Hernandez also took a behind-the-scenes tour of the turfgrass research programs on the UGA campuses in Griffin and in Tiſton.

“Cuba is just beginning a breeding program so it’s obvious that the technology we have de- veloped over the past 40 years will help solve some of their issues in making their golf courses

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