The Rise of the Relatively New Tifton-9

Continuing our look at varieties of grazing stock, this month we examine a relative newcomer – a Bahia cultivar known as Tifton-9.

Tifton-9 Pensacola Bahiagrass is a variant of Pensacola Bahia, developed by Dr. Glenn W. Burton in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service at the University of Georgia Agricultural Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia. Tifton-9 is a patented bahiagrass variety, and interested buyers should verify that any seed, sod, or sprigs are certified before purchasing. 

Compared with other varieties of bahiagrass, Pensacola types have a higher cold and frost tolerance. Tifton-9 in particular has been shown to be particularly vigorous in the seedling stage, which gives the plant a quick stand establishment and greater resilience against weeds. 

Once established, Tifton-9 typically produces 30 to 40 percent more forage per year and shows to be just as digestible as other Pensacola varieties. 

Tifton-9 is especially prone to crossbreed with other Bahia varieties, especially Pensacola stock. If allowed to crossbreed, many of the benefits Tifton-9 is renowned for will be diminished. 

Ideally, Tifton-9 should be planted in a field that has never grown Bahia and thus has no competing stock or seed. Former row crop fields are well suited for this. 

If a rancher wishes to convert a field of Bahia into a field of Tifton-9, there is a process that can be followed. 

First, plow the field using a moldboard plow, to ensure any remaining seed is buried too deeply to germinate. 

Second, plant some form of annual forage crop (such as pearl millet or sorghum-sudangrass) during the warm season and either a small grain, ryegrass, or clover during the cool season. This will minimize or eliminate any leftover Bahia.

Third, plant Tifton-9 between February and July, ideally using a precision seeder to ensure a uniform depth of ½ to ¾ inch. The field should be prepared by tilling and using a finishing disk that leaves a smooth surface, free of debris. IFAS recommends planting at least 4 pounds of seed per acre, although up to 15-20 pounds per acre may yield a fuller stand of grass.

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