October 18, 2006

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Axcella 2 has a darker green color than the original Axcella released in 2001. (Texas Agricultural Experiment Station photo)
  New 'dwarf' winter turf grass released

By Robert Burns
Texas Cooperative Extension

The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station has released a new turf grass for winter lawns that promises to be "dwarfier" and with a darker green color than previous releases.

The new turf grass is an annual ryegrass, Axcella 2, and is an "upgrade" from the original Axcella released in 2001, said Dr. Lloyd Nelson, small-grains breeder with the Experiment Station and developer of both grasses.

"Axcella was the first-ever annual ryegrass developed for over-seeding sports fields and home lawns in the southern U.S. during the cool season," Nelson said. "Axcella was selected to be a dwarf, but highly vigorous, grass that would maintain a green turf even at temperatures below freezing."

As a dwarf variety, Axcella forms a "thick, dense sod" but doesn't grow tall quickly and doesn't need to be mowed as often, he said.

The earlier release of Axcella had similar growing characteristics, but was a lighter green. The newer version comes closer in color to that of traditional warm-season grasses such as St. Augustine, and has a finer texture than previous releases.

Using a winter over-seeding means a homeowner or sports field manager can maintain a green and natural lawn or field throughout the winter, Nelson said.

Other ryegrasses are available for over-seeding, such as perennial varieties. But without proper management, perennials can persist well into the summer growing season, choking out warm-season varieties that come out of dormancy in the spring, such as Bermuda grass.

Like its predecessor, Axcella 2 dies out at the same time Bermuda grass is starting to green up, allowing it to produce a healthy summer lawn, Nelson said.

Three years ago, another ryegrass variety, Panterra, was released from Nelson's breeding program.

"Axcella 2 is improved compared to Panterra in that it is more uniform and has a finer texture than does Panterra," Nelson said. "However, both varieties are very good. Axcella 2 may live about one week longer than Panterra in the spring."

Nelson said Axcella 2 must be seeded around Oct. 15 when the soil temperature has cooled and rainfall is expected. The seed should be uniformly spread at from 10 to 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Jack Brady, research assistant with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Stephenville, shows one of his many native bee "trap nests." Brady is researching a method to categorize and attract native bees species as pollinators for specific crops.
(Texas Cooperative Extension Photo by Robert Burns)

Estimates indicate perhaps more than 500 native bee species in Texas alone. Each may be adapted to specific crops, and each may have a different preference for nesting sites, said Jack Brady.
(Texas Cooperative Extension Photo by Robert Burns)

Though smaller than European honeybees, native bees may be much more efficient pollinators at least for the crop to which they are adapted. For example, 200 alfalfa leafcutters can do the same amount of pollination as can a 20,000-honeybee hive.
(Texas Cooperative Extension Photo by Robert Burns)

In this split trap nest, the individual cells each with a single egg and a ball of pollen can be distinguished.
(Texas Agricultural Experiment Station photo by Jack Brady)

  Native bees could fill pollinator hole left by honeybees

By Robert Burns
Texas Cooperative Extension

If you build it, they will come. Native bees that is.

And when native bees do come, they may be a hundred times more efficient as pollinators than are honeybees, said Jeff Brady, research assistant with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Stephenville.

Brady, working with Dr. Forrest Mitchell, Experiment Station entomologist, is building trap nests, a way to encourage native bees to do the agriculturally vital role honeybees have been relied upon for so long: pollinating crops.

Honeybee populations, either because of fierce competition from Africanized honeybees or from species of mites they have no resistance to, are on the decline.

Native bees offer an alternative because they are resistant to both the varroa and tracheal mites. And because they do not live in hives, native bees are not at risk of being overcome by Africanized bees.

Native bees, also called solitary bees, do not live in collective hives as do honeybees. They build nests in tiny holes or tunnels that they find, typically in trees and shrubs. Unlike honeybees, who have workers with specialized tasks, with only a part of the hive collecting pollen, each native bee is "on her own," and each is a potential pollinator, Brady said.

Each native bee deposits her collected pollen as small balls inside the tunnel of a nest, then lays an egg, and seals it off with mud or circular pieces of leaves.

She'll then collect more pollen, deposit another pollen ball then lay another egg and so on. Depending upon the species of native bee and the depth of the nest, the female may lay as many as 15 to 20 eggs in a single nest, sealing each egg off in its own cell with its own pollen ball. She may make as many as 100 trips to and from flowers to gather pollen for each of these eggs.

And while honeybees hover around flowers taking pollen when and if they can, many native bees may have evolved so their actions on the flower actually trigger pollination.

"You can actually find a native bee that's been (evolutionarily) tailored to a specific crop," Brady said.

For example, some native bee species are particularly suited having adapted their life cycles to crops such as peaches, blackberries or watermelons. For example, one species is dormant or in developmental stages for 11 months of the year, and only emerges when crops such as melons are pollinating. Other species adapted to row crops such as alfalfa may be active for most of the year.

There's a great deal of genetic variance, Brady said, with more than 500 native bee species in Texas alone. Each may be adapted to specific crops, and each may have a different preference for nesting sites.

For these reasons and others, for a specific crop at least, native bees, such as the alfalfa leafcutter bee, may be much more efficient pollinators than honeybees, Brady said. "Two hundred alfalfa leafcutters can to do the same amount of pollination that a 20,000 honeybee hive could."

Honeybees have other advantages however, most notably their honey production. Because humans have cultured them for centuries, Brady said, they offered some advantages to the agricultural producer who wished to ensure there were enough local pollinators for his crop. He or she could simply establish hives near the crop.

And though honeybees aren't as efficient pollinators as native bees, they make up for it in the sheer brute force of numbers. But these advantages have waned as both wild honeybees and cultured honeybees have fallen prey to parasitic mites and Africanized bees.

Living in hives, honeybees have strength in numbers, offering the collective protection from enemies. Native bees, because of their solitary nature, are often at the mercy of predators, such as woodpeckers and parasitic wasps.

"They are completely opportunistic when it comes to finding nests," Brady said. "They'll nest wherever they find the right size hole, in a dead tree, in a wind chime, even in the empty bolt holes of an abandoned tractor."

This "opportunistic" behavior offers researchers an opportunity, he said. By learning to build the right size nests for native bees, a researcher should be able to encourage the bees to nest near agricultural crops for pollination.

But it's not just a simple matter of one size fits all, he said. Not only are native bees adapted to specific crops, they are also adapted to different sizes and depths of holes. So the first stage of Brady's research is to take a bee census, finding what bees are attracted to what crops and what size holes they prefer.

Brady has been building dozens of different size "trap nests," blocks of wood with holes or collections of tubes designed to "capture and hold" the bees as eggs, larvae and/or pupae. He distributes the trap nests near crops in the spring, and when collected later in the year, they can give him a snapshot of what bees and how many frequent certain crops.

Brady can also get an idea of what size holes or tubes certain species prefer, he said.

Knowing the right nest for the right native bee species will eventually allow him to help build populations where they are needed.

Brady noted that many native bee species build their nests in the ground. Presently, the only species drawn to the trap nests are the ones that opportunistically hunt for already-made holes as nests.

But Brady cautions what he's actually doing is perfecting a technique for determining the best nests for native bees, not building a one-size-fits-all nest. That would be impossible.

"The interesting thing about them (native bees) is they vary so much from region to region, he said. "The biological and other dynamics vary quite a bit."

It is that variance, however, that makes them so well adapted and the perfect choice as pollinators for many crops, he said.


  Readers' Gardening Tips

"To make great gardening labels, go to a thrift store and purchase a Venetian blind. It must be metal, not wood," writes Nancy Garrett. "Then cut the slats any size you want. I use a marks-a-lot pen to jot down info on the labels. At the end of the season, erase and start over. They are cheap to make, and weatherproof."

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Native American Indians used to sow morning glory seeds with their melon seeds because morning glories produced an enzyme that helped the melon seed sprout.


  Upcoming Garden Events

The San Antonio chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will host the groups' annual symposium Convergence and Diversity: Native Plants of South Central Texas, October 19 through 22, San Antonio. The symposium will feature guided tours to natural areas, seminars on native plants and a special program on cooking with native plants. For more information, contact (210) 733-0034, (830) 997-9272 or visit www.npsot.org.

The Austin Herb Society celebrates Herb Awareness Month in October with HerbFest, Saturday, October 21, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, located in the Burger Center, 3200 Jones Rd., off I-290 between Brodie Lane and Westgate Blvd. No entrance fee for shoppers, free parking. For additional information, call (512) 468-9126.

The Wichita County Horticulture Committee will hold a "How to plant a tree" class October 21 at 10 a.m. near the swimming pool area at Lucy Park, Wichita Falls. Admission is $1.00 and a can of food. (The can of food will be donated to the local food bank.) For more information, contact (940) 716-8610.

The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host BOOtanica! Sunday, October 22, 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Activities include a Creepy, Crawly Critter House with live insects and and Freaky Plants Display. Children are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit www.sabot.org.

The Johnson County Herb Society will hold its Herbal Thymes Show and Symposium, October 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cleburne Senior Center, Cleburne. The event will feature speakers, demonstrations herb plants and related products. For more information, contact Esther Chambliss at (817) 263-9322 or visit www.cleburnearea.info/herbies/.

The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host a Trees for San Antonio: Planting, Pruning and Care, Saturday, October 28, 10 a.m. until noon. Mark Peterson, SAWS Conservation Program Coordinator, will demonstrate proper techniques for planning and maintenance of trees. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit www.sabot.org.

The 2006 Annual Garden Tour in Victoria County will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 28 through 29, showcasing five gardens at historic homes in Old Victoria. Imagination will be fulfilled beyond garden gates with the theme "Nature's Beauty Beyond the Gate" in fall and pre-Halloween garden settings. Highlighted garden plants will be catalogued in educational materials and for plant sale identification on the weekend of the tour. Guided tours at $18 per person are scheduled from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Sunday. Individual garden tours are $5 per garden. Workshops will be conducted on culinary cooking and holiday decorating from the garden for additional fees. For further information, contact Victoria County Extension Office at (361) 575-4581.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center hosts "The Amazing World of Dragonflies and Damselflies," with Dr. John Abbott, Ph.D. Thursday, November 2, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Explore the amazing world of dragonflies and damselflies with Dr. John Abbott. Through breathtaking photography, Dr. Abbott will review their habits, riparian habitats and the many wonderful species particular to central Texas. Lectures are free to the public. Parking lot opens at 6:00 p.m., speaker reception at 6:00 p.m., lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary, but seating is limited. For more information, contact sbrueggerhoff@wildflower.org.

The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host the Fall Garden Fair Saturday, November 4, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of the South Texas Plains. Family craft activities, Texas Native Trail scavenger hunt, and entertainment by Charro Jerry Diaz and family. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit www.sabot.org.

The Texas Gourd Society will hold its 11th annual "Show and Tell" at the Waco Convention Center, Waco, November 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The two-day show will include gourd artists, seminars, demonstrations and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 free. For more information, visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.

The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the Ninth Annual Hill Country Lawn & Garden Show March 31, 2007, at the Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls. It is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Free Admission and seminars. It features garden related vendors, demonstrations, a children's booth, raffle and seminars by Malcolm Beck, Bill Luedecke and the Antique Rose Emporium. For more information go to hillcountrylgshow.com or call (325) 388-8849.

The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 676-4326 or visit www.dogc.org.

  Book Sale:
  Garden Bulbs for the South

In Garden Bulbs for the South, acclaimed garden expert Scott Ogden introduces Southern gardeners to more than 200 warm-climate bulbs that will perform wonderfully in their garden bulbs new, exotic, extraordinary, or unjustly neglected. A bulb for any need and any reason many of which will return to increase in beauty. With nearly 200 gorgeous, full-color photographs, Garden Bulbs for the South is an inviting way to take the guesswork out of bulb planting. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $24.50 while supplies last!

  Gourds in Your Garden

At last! Ginger Summit's complete, easy-to-use guide to help you identify popular gourd shapes; plan and prepare your garden; grow, train and harvest a bountiful crop of gourds; and prepare your gourds for use, from recipes to art projects. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $21.30 while supplies last!

  The Louisiana Iris

A comprehensive guide to the culture of the Louisiana Iris, Marie Caillett and Joseph K. Mertzweiller's The Louisiana Iris represents more than 200 years of combined experience of the editors and 18 other contributing members of the Society for Louisiana Irises. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $29.84 while supplies last!

  Roses in the Southern Garden

In this valuable review of 100 antique roses, from and for southern gardens, G. Michael Shoup shows each rose as a separate personality. Included in Roses in the Southern Garden are hundreds of evocative photographs illustrating creative and imaginative gardens blended with Old Garden Roses. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $37.36 while supplies last!

  Southern Lawns

If you're tired of your neighbor bragging about his superior lawn, this is the book for you! Southern Lawns provides complete step-by-step instructions for planting and/or maintaining every major type of southern grass lawn, including Bermuda Grass, Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass. In addition to a special "month-by-month" section with activity lists for every month of the year, author Chris Hastings includes a complete glossary of lawn care terms. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $26.62 while supplies last!

  Texas Wildscapes

Noreen Damude and Kelly Conrad Bender's Texas Wildscapes helps gardeners design gardens to provide habitat for native wildlife. More importantly, it furnishes lists of beautiful and useful native plants appropriate to the specific region of Texas in which you live. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $26.63 while supplies last!

Order any of the above books by calling 1-800-727-9020.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  Fiber Row Cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. Suntex Communications, Inc. 2006. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com