Dr. Wayne Hanna on Tifton 85 and other Forage – June 2012

Is Tifton 85 a GMO Grass? What you need to know about Forages.


wayne hannaIn this months training we talk to Dr. Wayne Hanna, Professor at the University of Georgia.  Given the recent story in my neck of the woods about Tifton 85, a bermuda grass hybrid, we talk with Dr. Hanna about the specific grass and the general overall problems that we as Ranchers could face with our forages.  As ranchers and especially grassfed beef producers, the possibility that we could turn our cattle out only to have them die hours later because of our grass is terrifying.  We want to make sure that we get the straight story and understand what we need to worry about, what we don't and how, if we can, to stay vigilant to avoid a similar disaster as the one this rancher faced from this  breaking news story.

The natural question is, who is Dr. Hanna and how is he qualified to answer our questions:


B.S.       1966   Agricultural Education          Texas A&M University
M.S.      1968   Plant Breeding                         Texas A&M University
Ph.D.   1970   Genetics                                      Texas A&M University



1970-1971   Assistant Professor, Department of Agronomy, University of Florida.
1971- 2003.  Research Geneticist and Research Leader, USDA-ARS, Crop Genetics and Breeding  Research Unit; Location Leader, Tifton location,  Tifton,   Georgia (Adjunct Professor of   Agronomy,  University of Georgia  (1980 to 2002).
2003-Present. Part-Time Professor, University of Georgia.



¬†-Merit Certificate, American Forage and Grassland Council¬† ‚ÄϬ† 1984
-Fellow, American Society of Agronomy¬† ‚ÄϬ† 1985
-Fellow, Crop Science Society of America¬† ‚ÄϬ† 1985
-Japanese Government Research Award for Foreign Specialists¬† ‚ÄϬ† 1985
-USDA Forage and Turfgrass Research Team Award¬† ‚ÄϬ† 1986
-Tifton Sigma Xi Distinguished Research Award¬† ‚ÄϬ† 1988
-Medallion Award - American Forage and Grassland Council  -  1989
-Certificate of Merit, USDA/ARS  -  1989, 1991, 1992
-ARS Outstanding Scientist of the Year  -  1990
-USDA Distinguished Service Award  -  1992
-Award for Excellence for Senior Scientists from the Ga Coastal Plain Exp Station  -  1998
-Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer  -  2001
- Outstanding Technology Transfer Award.  USDA-ARS  -  2002
-C.Reed Funk Achievement Award.  Turfgrass Breeders Association (national)  -  2003
-Inventor of the Year. University of Georgia Research Foundation  -  2003
-Distinguished Service Award from the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association  -  2003
- Honorary Member Award from Turfgrass Producers International  -  2006
- Agricultural Research Service Science Hall of Fame  -  2006
-Honorary Member of the Turfgrass Breeders Association (USA)  -  2010
- Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame  -  2011
- U.S. Golf Association Green Section Award  -  2012


He is author or co-author of over 600 scientific papers with over 150 national and international scientists describing his research on the genetics, cytogenetics, and breeding of one or more species in the genera Paspalum, Pennisetum, Sorghum, Panicum, Eremochloa, and Cynodon.  His program involves studies on male sterility systems, reproductive (apomixis) and chromosome behavior, radiation and plant improvement, hybridization, gene action, linkage and inheritance analyses, alien germplasm transfer, and forage quality components.  He has developed and released over 46 parental lines, inbreds, improved germplasm and/or cultivars of turf and forage grasses(which includes 12 plant patents).

He is a member of the Golf Course Superintendents of America, Georgia Golf Course Superintendents, Turfgrass Producers of America, American Society of Agronomy, and Crop Science Society of America,  He has served on the Boards of the Crop Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy.  He has served as an Associate Editor for both Crop Science and Journal of Heredity.  He actively participates in national and international meetings and conferences.  He has served as a consultant or advisor in 35 foreign countries since 1977.   He has directed the research of 10 graduate students and worked with 18 visiting scientists and post-docs.  He is a Fellow of both the Crop Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy.

As to Dr. Hanna's current line of work, here is what he has to say:

"I conduct research on the breeding, genetics, cytogenetics, molecular genetics and management of new grasses used for forage and turf. Some of our best-known cultivars include TifSport and TifEagle bermudagrass, TifBlair centipedegrass for turf and Tifleaf 3 pearl millet for forage. Our research is concerned with the development and application of fundamental knowledge and principles essential to breeding, improvement, management, and utilization of grasses.

Research includes:

Manipulation of apomixis to produce true-breeding hybrids
Studies on the effects of cytoplasms on agronomic characteristics
Evaluation of methods for utilizing germplasm from wild species
Development of superior dwarf drought resistant pearl millet hybrids for the U.S.
Development of superior bermudagrass and centipedegrass cultivars for turf"


He and his wife (Barbara) have endowed three scholarships for undergraduate students, one at each: University of Georgia, Texas A&M University, and Asbury College (KY).

There are few plant geneticist that know more about bermuda grass and the Tifton varieties specifically than Dr. Hanna.  You will learn a lot about this particular problem and grasses in general by listening to this months training with Dr. Wayne Hanna.


This is an excellent interview and one that you will find very informative and educational.

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1 thoughts on “Dr. Wayne Hanna on Tifton 85 and other Forage – June 2012

  1. Elma IreneGarza

    Thank you Dr.Hanna for this great information and putting us at ease. My question is: I have heard that horses dont particularly like to eat Tiffton 85, cattle dont have this problem though. Just wondering if you know anything about this, as we have some horses at our ranch and are a little concern about that. Again, thank you so much for the info and your time, God Bless!!!

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