Drought resistance is highlight of new grass to be available from Sod Solutions.
After nearly 20 years of research and development, Cobalt™ Hybrid St. Augustinegrass has been officially released. The Texas A&M AgriLife Research program and turfgrass breeder Dr. Ambika Chandra selected Cobalt over other experimental turfgrass lines for its commercial potential. “Cobalt will change how the industry views and uses St. Augustinegrass. Its drought resistance will reduce the frequency of irrigation needed to maintain a healthy lawn. Water is an extremely important resource and data shows that Cobalt is one of the most drought resistant St. Augustinegrasses ever developed,” states Dr. Chandra.
Cobalt will be exclusively licensed through Sod Solutions for commercial production and marketing. Sod Solutions President Tobey Wagner describes Cobalt as a scientific breakthrough. “It consistently performs well at sites across the country from subtropical to transition zones. Studies showed it was cold tolerant and the 2021 polar vortex (when the air temperature dropped as low as 1˚ F) that blasted through the central and southern US was the ultimate real-life test for this grass. Cobalt survived and thrived through the cold event,” Wagner shared.
This hybrid grass was created by crossing drought and pest resistant germplasm with genotypes including superior shade, cold tolerance, and visual characteristics.
As a result, Cobalt features include: excellent drought resistance • very good shade tolerance • tolerant of disease • good establishment rate • winter hardy (USDA cold hardiness zone of 8a) • and excellent visual quality with a dark green color and a wide leaf blade and stolons.
Developing A New Grass
The St. Augustinegrass Research Group (SARG) program started in 2003 as a group of Texas sod producers uniting to support and fund the breeding program at Texas A&M with the goal of developing an improved St. Augustinegrass. The aim was to breed a grass with good drought and disease resistance that would also grow fast and harvest well, producing solid pieces of sod.
With those parameters, the Texas A&M turfgrass breeding team started working on making crosses. After many years of cross-pollination, work done in laboratories, and field evaluations, eventually Cobalt became the winner. A second experimental grass, DALSA 1318, will be evaluated for a couple more years due to its excellent establishment, growing in faster than any other grass, including Cobalt. However, it doesn’t have the same level of drought resistance or shade tolerance as Cobalt.
“With both 1318 and 1618 (Cobalt), both have really good shade tolerance,” Dr. Chandra explained last summer. “With these, we now have a combination of shade tolerance and drought resistance. If you have a customer coming looking for a St. Augustinegrass for shade you have that with these varieties; and now you will be able to say these have significantly better drought resistance with reduced watering requirements too.”
Interested in Lobo™ Zoysiagrass? It’s also available from Sod Solutions.
Landscapers and lawn care professionals, make the most of client yards by knowing these Four Key Areas for Better Turfgrass Management.