Southeastern cattle production may have just entered a new era, thanks to University of Florida researchers who've developed a bahiagrass, UF-Riata, that withstands cold temperatures better than other varieties and produces forage longer, saving money for ranchers.
Pensacola bahiagrass is the predominant pasture grass in the southeastern United States, covering 5 million acres, with 3 million acres in Florida alone.
Researchers developed UF-Riata in response to the need for a bahiagrass variety that grew well despite winter temperatures and short daylight periods, said UF agronomist Ann Blount, who was primarily responsible for developing the variety.
"It should be successful throughout the Southern Coastal plain," she said. Besides its potential as a pasture grass, UF-Riata may be suitable for use in crop rotations and as a utility turf.
Blount has been part of UF's bahiagrass breeding program since its inception in 1989. Other researchers involved in the development of UF-Riata include IFAS' Cheryl Mackowiak, Paul Mislevy, Bob Myer, Ken Quesenberry, Lynn Sollenberger and Tom Sinclair, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bill Anderson, G.W. Burton, Sam Coleman, Roger Gates and Wayne Hanna.
UF-Riata has been exclusively licensed to seed producer Ragan & Massey Inc., based in Ponchatoula, La. The seed should be available to customers starting in late summer 2009, said Mike Massey, co-owner of the company.
"Anybody that depends on Pensacola- or Argentine-type bahiagrass is going to like UF-Riata because of the extra grazing time," Massey said. "We think it has the potential to replace all of the Pensacola-type bahiagrass currently planted for forage."