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Turf Colorants In The Northeast — Who Would Have Thought? December 15, 2017 By Paul Jacobs, agronomist, Northeast Region

Applying turf colorants to bermudagrass improves winter color and results in accelerated spring greenup.

When compared to cool-season grasses, bermudagrass is more tolerant of drought, heat and disease. In the transition zone, this typically results in better midsummer playing conditions. However, poor tolerance to cold temperatures and a lack of color retention during winter have prevented some facilities from using bermudagrasses in the Northeast Region.

Fortunately, bermudagrasses with increased cold tolerance have been developed that are better able to withstand conditions in the northern transition zone. One such bermudagrass, Latitude 36, was developed at Oklahoma State University with USGA funding and has become increasingly popular since first becoming available in early 2012. Latitude 36 and other bermudagrasses with improved cold tolerance are becoming popular alternatives to cool-season turfgrasses for golf course fairways and tees because of their improved playability and reliability during summer. Unfortunately, the dormant appearance of bermudagrass during winter is often considered undesirable.

Turf colorants are a cost-effective alternative to overseeding dormant bermudagrass. In addition to providing green color, turf colorants absorb heat which helps bermudagrass emerge from dormancy earlier in the spring. Due to the increased use of bermudagrasses in the transition zone and Northeast Region, the USGA hosted a turf colorant workshop in Charlottesville, Virginia. The workshop featured a discussion of turf colorant benefits and explored successful application techniques.

Successful turf colorant applications often require slight sprayer setup modifications. There is no one-size-fits-all setup, but some points to consider if you plan to use turf colorants are outlined below:

  • Turf colorants are specifically formulated for outdoor application to turfgrass. Most of the colorants applied to turfgrass are either pigments or paints.
    • A turf paint is a combination of a pigment, a binder, a surfactant and other additives.
  • Fastness rating is critical for long-term green color retention.
    • The color green is achieved by combining blue and yellow pigments. If these pigments fade at different rates turf color typically fades to a blue appearance.
  • Sprayers must be properly calibrated and equipped with clean nozzles to achieve even droplet distribution.
  • Boom and nozzle configurations often must be adjusted for successful use of turf colorants. Here are a couple of setup recommendations:
    • Add nozzles to convert spray booms from a standard, 20-inch nozzle spacing to a 10-inch spacing.
    • Many superintendents that apply turf colorants also modify their sprayers by reducing the nozzle height to 14 inches.
  • Apply turf colorants to dense, clean and freshly mowed grass.
  • Applications made during heavy frost are best because moisture helps distribute colorants across leaf surfaces.
  • Make applications in a direction that is perpendicular to play to minimize the visibility of spray pattern imperfections.
  • Practice turf colorant applications in an out-of-play area before wide-scale application to playing surfaces.


We would like to thank those who attended and assisted in coordinating the first USGA turf colorant workshop in the Northeast Region. If you would like to learn more about turf colorants and their use, contact your regional USGA Agronomist. 


Northeast Region Agronomists:

David A. Oatis, regional director –

Adam Moeller, director, Green Section Education –

James E. Skorulski, agronomist –

Elliott Dowling, agronomist –

Addison Barden, agronomist –

Paul Jacobs, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service 

Contact the Green Section Staff