Notes From The Kikuyugrass Summit In Southern California

By Pat Gross, director, Southwest Region
February 4, 2011

Frequent vertical mowing was mentioned during the 2011 Kikuyugrass Summit as one of the top five management practices to maintain optimum turf quality. 

Love it or hate it, kikuyugrass is the prominent turf at many Southern California golf courses.  For the second year in a row, a group of superintendents, growers and researchers met at Mission Viejo Country Club to share information on successful management techniques and discuss potential research topics that will help resolve some of the challenges of managing kikuyugrass. 

Kikuyugrass has many positive attributes, including a lower water-use rate compared to cool-season grasses, low fertility requirement, and better winter color retention compared to warm season grasses.  On the down-side, kikuyugrass is susceptible to fungal diseases and is sensitive to herbicide applications.  Superintendents shared the following information with respect to their ongoing management programs:

  • Turf scalping continues to be a problem during the summer, and superintendents mentioned that the problem tends to occur in the same spot every year.  The common denominator appeared to be south-facing areas with high sunlight intensity.  Practices that appear to reduce scalping include the use of soil wetting agents to maintain adequate moisture, and applications of growth regulator products every two weeks to control the aggressive growth of kikuyugrass.
  • Some superintendents reported recurring problems with Phoenix billbugs, which can produce multiple life cycles throughout the year and cause turf damage from March through early November.  Usually, two or more insecticide treatments are necessary to control this pest.
  • The fungal disease brown patch has been a problem at all kikuyugrass courses over the past six weeks.  Symptoms appear after the first rain, normally in November, and the disease persists until March with the onset of warmer weather.  Fifty percent of the superintendents apply fungicides to control the disease.
  • Deep aeration in the spring, vertical mowing on a frequency of 4 to 12 times per year, routine growth regulator treatments, and mowing with heavy reel-type mowers were mentioned as essential programs for successful kikuyugrass management.


Dr. Jim Baird from UC Riverside introduced graduate student Tyler Mock, who will focus his studies on the breeding and development of kikuyugrass.  In addition to studying the genetic diversity within the species, other planned research activities include kikuyugrass management studies, and screening of new herbicides for weed control in kikuyugrass.

Further information and details about the results of the meeting are available by contacting the Southwest Region Green Section office:

Pat Gross – 

Denise Covell – 

714-542-5766 office


Source: Pat Gross, 

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