Dr. Wayne Hanna Inducted into ARS Hall of Fame (September, 2006)

In Wayne Hanna's 35 years of research in forage and turfgrass breeding and genetics, he has improved the very surface of the earth we walk on.

So begins the recent citation awarding Dr. Wayne Hanna the highest honor of the federal agency he served for 32 years. On the evening of September 13, in a ceremony at the US National Arboretum in Washington DC, Dr. Hanna joined “the best of the best” when he was inducted into the Agricultural Research Service’s Science Hall of Fame. The ARS is the research arm of the US Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Hanna retired from the ARS in 2003 and currently is Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at the University of Georgia. He remains active in the field of turf and ornamental grass breeding.

The citation that accompanied the ARS award recognized the scope and depth of Dr. Hanna’s achievements, continuing:

His bermudagrass varieties have more vigor and resistance to pests and heat and need less fertilizer, pesticides and water. His bermudagrasses are widely used for forage and on golf courses, ball fields and lawns. He developed new pearl millets for forage that cost farmers less to grow while producing higher yields of high-quality pasture. Hanna's seminal research on apomixis (plant cloning) is directed towards producing true-breeding cultivars that retain superior characteristics and hybrid vigor in crops for which traditional hybridization is not economically feasible and in which apomixis does not occur naturally. He has also done vital work on gene transfer in millet. Hanna was based at the Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, Ga.

ARS Hall of Famer Hanna chats about TifSport with GA Tech Sports Turf manger Kris Harris.


Grand Opening of The Reserve at St. James Plantation (July, 2006)

The Reserve, latest and most exclusive of the four golf course membership communities at St. James Plantation near Southport NC, celebrated its Grand Opening on Saturday, July 21.  Officials of Nicklaus Design and Troon Golf gathered with St. James Plantation principals for the ribbon cutting and subsequent festivities. After an initial 18-month period during which the course’s TifSport fairways and bentgrass greens will be available for play by select groups, the Reserve Course will be restricted to residents of the Reserve and their guests.

Ribbon Cutting at The Reserve at St. James Plantation.
        L -  Michael Nicklaus, leader of Nicklaus Design team
        C -  Jay Atkinson, President of St. James Properties, LLC
        R -  Henry Ulrichs, Member and Chairman of the Club's Advisory Committee


TifSport and TifEagle Share the Glory (March, 2006)

TifEagle and TifSport are again reaping turfgrass kudos with Golfdom’s choice of the #9 hole at Fazio Foothills at Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin TX as its March Hole of the Month.  The new standard bermudagrass pairing for upscale warm weather courses is a perfect match-up for the spectacular Fazio Foothills, the most prestigious of the four courses at Barton Creek and an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

Great venues like the award-laden Foothills never rest on their laurels; they maintain quality by constantly improving with the times.

TifSport and TifEagle are the most recent Bermuda releases of the University of Georgia’s turfgrass team. In introducing these improved cultivars during the 1990s, their breeder, Dr. Wayne Hanna, continued a tradition of excellence coming out of the Coastal Plain Experiment Station at Tifton GA.  This is the same meticulous program that was responsible for the earlier twosome of golf course favorites, Tifway (419) and Tifdwarf. As the superiority of the new cultivars became evident to golfers and superintendents alike, Barton Creek moved to replace greens with TifEagle, in 2001, and most recently its fairways and teeboxes with TifSport, in 2004.

Both TifSport and TifEagle are patented and certified, with maintenance of genetic purity the primary goal of stringent growth and inspection protocols required of the licensed producers, who are the sole source for these grasses.


Hanna Receives Coveted
TPI Membership Award
at 2006 Mid-Winter Conference
(February, 2006)

Internationally renowned turfgrass breeder Dr. Wayne Hanna was awarded the prestigious Turfgrass Producers International Honorary Member Award at the 2006 TPI Midwinter Conference held in historic Savannah, Georgia, February 14th through the 17th.

Dr. Hanna, famous for his breeding work throughout a 30-year career with the USDA/ARS, is now retired from ARS, but continues to work full-time as a professor and turfgrass breeder with the University of Georgia.

The TPI Foundation’s Honorary Member Award is presented to individuals who have improved the turfgrass industry in a significant way. It is the highest honor the organization can bestow. Hanna joins the ranks of only 23 former recipients over the last 33 years. In presenting the award Ben Copeland, Sr., a past president of TPI who has known him for 32 years, praised Dr. Hanna’s “tremendous contribution to the turfgrass industry throughout his career,” and noted that “he has been responsible for the breeding and release of TifSport and TifEagle Bermudagrass and TifBlair Centipedegrass, which are all the leading warm season turfgrasses.”

Dr. Hanna’s achievements are well known to the industry. His TifSport Bermudagrass, which he released in 1996, has become the grass of choice for golf course fairways, tees and roughs. As Dr. Hanna recalls, “My main goal was to develop a new variety that was superior to Tifway 419. We wanted a grass with superior color, cold-hardiness and disease resistance. We concentrated on turf density, turf strength and turf quality, and we wanted TifSport to be able to tolerate frequent lower mowing heights.”

You can see TifSport in action at venues as varied as the Georgia Governor’s Mansion and the lush fairways of the Sunset Course at Mirasola Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, home of this year’s Honda Classic.

TifEagle Bermudagrass, which Dr. Hanna released in the spring of 1998, is the third generation of bermudagrass varieties developed exclusively for golf greens at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton GA. While Tifdwarf became the warm-season standard for putting greens during the last three decades of the 20th century, TifEagle was bred to meet the challenges faced by today’s golf superintendents and the expectations of a new generation of golfers. It can tolerate the intense management program necessary to deliver the putting speed and consistency even club players have come to expect. Traditional grasses, and even many of the new superdwarfs, can’t stand up to the physical stress of the lower mowing heights and frequent verticuttings required to control thatch build-up. TifEagle recovers quickly from mechanical injury, has excellent color, and is extremely cold hardy, drought tolerant and disease resistant.

Centipede is a slow-growing, medium-to-coarse warm season grass that produces a very dense, attractive, weed-free turf. It’s also more shade tolerant than bermudagrass, and since it produces only surface runners, it’s more easily controlled around flowerbeds, walkways, airport runways and highway medians. Most of the common centipedes, however, have very poor rooting characteristics, making them less than ideal for difficult sites and colder climates. Dr. Hanna bred TifBlair Centipede to overcome these problems. As research from Georgia to Oklahoma has shown, TifBlair is exceptionally cold tolerant, has impressive fall color retention, and develops a deep root system even in poor growing conditions. TifBlair is also the one and only certified centipede.

Dr. Hanna has another legacy, perhaps just as important as his meticulous breeding work. From the beginning, he has insisted that stringent oversight protocols be established for all of his new grasses. TifSport, TifEagle and TifBlair are patented varieties that can only be sold as certified sod, sprigs or seed (TifBlair), and only by licensed sod producers who are required to become members of carefully monitored growers associations. In short, Dr. Hanna has made sure his grasses are grown, inspected and sold under a rigorous set of rules and guidelines designed to promote on-going purity and uniformity. This concern for the maintenance of varietal purity was a major factor leading to the development of the International Turfgrass Genetic Assurance Program (ITGAP), the first-of-its-kind effort to maintain the integrity of certified varieties in international turfgrass markets.

Dr. Hanna is currently working diligently on a new shade-tolerant bermudagrass, which he hopes to release in 2007.