Shadow Turf will grow in areas with 80% to 90% shade and will stay green on as little
as 4 inches of water per month.
Rockwell Professor of Plant and Soil Science Dick Auld and his research team have
scientifically characterized a new variety of hardy, drought-tolerant turfgrass that
grows well under the shade of trees. The patent-pending grass variety will commercially
be known as Shadow Turf
, but technically it’s a specially selected variety of zoysiagrass that was discovered
by Mark Ivey, owner of Ivey Gardens Greenhouses.
"This university isn’t an ivory tower," said Auld, who previously served as chairman
of the Department of Plant and Soil Science. "We reach out to local businesspeople
all the time. This time we were able to get a new product out to the public and that’s
a real success story with economic impact to the university."
Texas Tech researchers have been working on ornamental turfgrass breeding since 1994,
with much of their efforts concentrating on buffalograss. Some four years ago, the
turf team produced Turffalo
, a buffalograss for homeowners designed to be drought resistant, with root systems
sinking up to 10 feet into the ground, while retaining the density and true green
color enjoyed with varieties like bermuda or fescue.
In the process of developing and marketing Turffalo, the researchers were inundated
with requests for some type of grass that would grow under the deep shade of trees.
At the time, they were also working closely with Ivey.
In 2005, Ivey approached Texas Tech with a special variety of dark green zoysiagrass
that grew exceptionally well under shady conditions. Using Ivey’s specimen, Auld
and graduate student Brad Sladek began the detailed task of developing a plant patent
for Ivey’s zoysiagrass variety. The researchers scientifically characterized the grass,
developed trial plots detailing a comparison of the grasses’ growth habits, pinpointed
locations where it would produce nationally and mapped a DNA fingerprint identifying
the plant. In addition, they looked at the cultural practices needed for it to grow
well in Texas and across the region.
Since 1994, Texas Tech researchers have been working on creating durable, economically
and environmentally friendly turf grasses like Turffalo and the new Shadow Turf for
residential and commercial use.
Last year, Texas Tech’s Office of the Vice President for Research presented Auld
with a $40,000 grant to promote and commercialize the new grass variety. As part
of a commercial agreement with Ivey, Texas Tech receives a portion of the royalties
from the sale of the grass.
"The patent was filed with the U.S. Patent Office in March and we’re just waiting
for approval," Auld said.
Introduced in the United States in the early 1900s, zoysiagrass forms a dense turf
when managed, Sladek noted. Native to China, Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia,
the warm-season grass is well known for being extremely drought tolerant, nearly
as salt tolerant as bermudagrass, and is among the most wear-tolerant turfgrasses.
Moreover, Sladek said it has the added feature of being cold tolerant, which allows
it to be used on the South Plains.
"A number of our shade-tolerant, warm-season grasses, primarily St. Augustine grass,
do not have cold tolerance," he said. "That’s why it’s not often used in this area.
zoysiagrass really fits a niche here."
The researchers believe their new Shadow Turf will eventually have multiple applications
from residential landscaping to golf courses. Right now, considering the way it is
propagated, it will likely be first seen among homeowners.
Shadow Turf is commercially sold in plug form. The 2x2x3-inch plugs, which average
around $90 a flat, are planted nine-to-12 inches apart, depending on how quickly
the homeowner wants to cover an area. The slow-establishing grass is normally planted
from late May to early June.
"The beauty of this story is that we had a small businessman trying to do something
entrepreneurial and a major public university with scientific expertise that was
willing to do something to help," Auld said. "That’s why we have a commercialized
Photos by Norman Martin