University of Florida

Turfgrasses in Florida

Turfgrasses became an increasingly important component in Florida’s urban landscape due to the population annual growth rate, since in 2003 Florida ranked as the fourth most populous state in the U.S. (Haydu et al., 2008). Nagata (2003) stated that there are more than four million acres of managed turfgrasses in Florida, with 75% of these in residential lawns. The roughly calculated area for sod production in Florida is 93,000 acres (Haydu et al., 2008). Florida has the second largest withdrawal of ground water for public supply in the U.S. (Solley et al., 1998) and some estimates indicate that 30-70% of publicly supplied drinking water use in Florida accounts for landscape water use (FDEP, 2002).

Turfgrass water use varies among turfgrass species and within cultivars in Florida  (Cisar et al., 1995). Cultural practices can be manipulated to decrease a species’ water use and enhance its drought resistance, playing an important role in water conservation (McCarty, 1991; Sartain, 2001; Shearman, 2008; Trenholm et al., 2001) . Reference evapotranspiration (ETo), turf evapotranspiration (ETc) and turf crop coefficients (Kc) can be used to schedule irrigation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through its sponsored partnership program named “WaterSense", support the need of using technologies with crop coefficients programmed into weather-based irrigation controllers for efficient irrigation.

Florida hosts principally turfgrasses species classified as warm-season grasses, which are adapted to tropical and subtropical areas (Huang, 2006) . Warm-season grasses use significantly less water than cool-season species (adapted to colder climates) (Duble, 2006). This difference in water use derives from changes is the photosynthetic process that occurred in grasses evolving under hot, dry conditions. These changes include modifications in biochemical reactions and internal leaf anatomy, increased photosynthetic efficiency (keeping high levels of carbohydrate production even when stomates are partially closed),  which reduces water use.

In 2003, St. Augustinegrass accounted for 64% of total sod production in Florida, followed by bahiagrass (24%), bermudagrass (6%), centipedegrass (5%) and zoysiagrass (1%) (Haydu et al., 2008). This species might be considered as the most common turfgrasses grown in Florida.

Southwest Florida Water Management District