Baker Street Botany
Measuring Sustainability and Leaves of Grass

Tropical carpetgrass part 2: ugly duckling or swan?

When I wrote about tropical carpetgrass being an unappreciated grass, the conversations (1 & 2 & 3) that ensued showed a mixed response. Some people really like tropical carptegrass (Axonopus compressus), and others have no use for it.

Carpetgrass_singapore
Tropical carpetgrass on a golf course fairway in Singapore

It was rightly pointed out that in a a subtropical environment, tropical carpetgrass will not be ideal throughout the year, especially when it is cool. And like other grasses, there will be issues with drought tolerance, and traffic damage, and so on. Where this species is really well-adapted is in tropical climates that receive more than 1,000 mm annual precipitation; one wouldn't want this grass where precipitation is less than 800 mm. It is not a perfect grass, even in the tropics, but no grass is.

Chumpon
Tropical carpetgrass through the green at Chumpon, Thailand

So why do I persist in writing about tropical carpetgrass? Because for many tropical sites, this is the grass that should be used, and it has some very attractive characteristics that are especially relevant to the way I think about turfgrass management. When possible, I think we should manage turf with a minimum amount of inputs. Tropical carpetgrass, more than other species, can be maintained as a multipurpose turfgrass with the fewest inputs.

Last year I was interviewed by Matt Adams on the Fairways of Life radio show. You can listen to the interview here.

07.09.13 INT ARCHIVE Fairways Of LIfe Micah Woods_3592772

I was expecting Matt to talk with me about tournament preparation and golf and grasses around the world. Instead, he started by asking about maintenance inputs and grass selection:

Today more and more, there is pressure upon every golf facility in terms of how they maintain the golf course – the general line that we're hearing is that golf courses need to embrace more of the brown because water is at such a premium anywhere and everywhere around the world.

Then he asked, how can the type of grass chosen help us out in terms of maintainenance cost and availability of water? Rather than talking about using more resources and spending more money, the focus at the global level is to use less resources in turfgrass maintenance. 

This was also a prominent theme of Don Mahaffey's recent conversations at Golf Club Atlas (first interview, second interview). These are really good discussions about what golf course maintenance should be about, and I highly recommend taking the time to watch both of them in their entirety. In the second video, Don said something that is very applicable to turf management: 

We cut our maintenance expenses greatly, because we just focused on what's good for golf, and interestingly, no one complained.

Carpetgrass_phuket2
Tropical carpetgrass fairway at Phuket, Thailand

With tropical carpetgrass, in a tropical climate with annual precipitation of at least 800 mm, and preferably with 1,000 mm or more, this grass requires only mowing. It can be maintained without fertilizer or pesticides, and irrigation is only required if one wants to make the grass green, or if the turf is to be heavily trafficked with golf carts.

There will be many golf courses or turf managers that prefer to grow and manage a grass that has different characteristics. But let's not forget about the many good characteristics of the multipurpose tropical carpetgrass. As the recent research from Trinidad and Nigeria demonstrates, this species has a number of advantages compared to other turf species in a tropical environment.

Bangsai_lawn
Tropical carpetgrass lawn in Ayutthaya, Thailand
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