published in


September 2011

Jiggs – A Bermudagrass Adapted to South-Central Florida

Dr. Joao Vendramini
University of Florida/IFAS

Picture of Joao Vendramini

For questions or comments regarding this publication contact: Joao Vendramini 

Bermudagrass is one of the most important warm-season perennial grasses in the southern USA. Coastal bermudagrass was the first hybrid bermudagrass released in 1943 and since then, a massive number of new bermudagrass cultivars were released by state agricultural experiment stations and private companies. Despite of the large number of cultivars released, it has been challenging to find a bermudagrass cultivar adapted to South Florida, primarily because of the poorly drained soils. Coastal, Tifton 85, and the “Central Florida Tifton 44” (which is different from the true Tifton 44) are cultivars well adapted to North-Central Florida and have superior drought tolerance; however, they are not productive and persistent when planted in poorly drained soils.

A private company, owned by J.C. Jiggs, released Jiggs in southeast Texas in the 1980’s but the exact date of the release is unknown.  Jiggs has been included in bermudagrass variety trials in Overton, TX and Ardmore, OK for several years and it had showed decreased herbage production when compared to Tifton 85 and Tifton 44. It is important to mention that these sites are located in northern latitudes (30-31o), where the duration of the cool season is prolonged and the number of freezing events is much greater than in South Florida (27o). Nonetheless, these variety trials have proven that Jiggs is as cold tolerant as many of the commercial bermudagrass cultivars.

Dr. Paul Mislevy brought Jiggs to the Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Ona, FL approximately 10 years ago to conduct research and compare Jiggs with the existent improved warm-season grass species adapted to South Florida. A study was conducted in Ona, FL to compare the herbage production and nutritive value of different stargrass (Florona, Okeechobee) and bermudagrass (Tifton 85, World Feeder, Bermuda 2000, and Jiggs) cultivars at different grazing frequencies (2, 4, 6, and 7 weeks). Jiggs and Bermuda 2000 (cultivar not released) were generally the two highest yielding entries at grazing frequencies of 2 (3.4 and 3.1), 4 (6.5 and 5.7), 5 (6.9 and 7.9), and 7 weeks (9.3 and 8.2 ton/acre), respectively, and the most persistent.

The winter forage production was highest for Bermudagrass 2000 and Jiggs averaged 1.1 ton/acre when harvested after 12 weeks regrowth. It was noted that the early spring and fall forage production of Jiggs was greater than the other cultivars.

A recent study conducted in Wauchula, FL compared several species and cultivars of warm-season grasses commonly planted in South Florida. Jiggs was among the most productive entries with similar nutritive value (Table 1). As a result of standing water conditions for two weeks during the summers of 2007 and 2008, many entries did not persist throughout the 3-years trial. Jiggs persisted under those conditions and maintained 95% of the stand after the experimental period.

In addition to the desirable characteristics described above, it has been observed that Jiggs has faster establishment than stargrass and other cultivars of bermudagrass, when planted with mature tops. Jiggs also has thin stems, which allow the grass to dry faster under field conditions when harvested for hay or haylage. The faster drying time is necessary to decrease the chances of adverse climatic conditions and maintain the green color of the dried material. The thin stems and green color are desirable attributes in the hay market, primarily for horse hay.

As with many bermudagrass cultivars in South Florida, Jiggs is susceptible to leaf rust when regrowth periods between harvests or grazing exceed approximately 6-7 weeks. The appearance of rust is conditional to the plant maturity and climatic conditions. Nitrogen fertilization can stimulate new growth and eventually decrease the rust symptoms; however, it is an expensive solution for the problem. Spraying copper sulfate has also being tried by producers with highly variable results. The best management practice to alleviate the rust problem is to harvest or graze the stand and allow new regrowth.

It needs to be emphasized that Jiggs is a bermudagrass; like all bermudagrasses, Jiggs requires adequate pH and fertilization, and will not tolerate overgrazing for long periods. Overgrazing Jiggs often results in an infestation of common bermudagrass, which is extremely difficult to control. A minimum of 4 inches stubble height is recommended for grazed Jiggs pastures, and recent research finding have indicated that 5-6 inches may increase forage production.

Although it was mentioned that Jiggs is adapted to poorly drained soils, it is not recommended to plant Jiggs in areas with frequent long periods of flooding (several weeks) because the persistence of Jiggs under this condition is unknown.

If you have any questions related to this article or general forage management, please contact Joe Vendramini, jv@ufl.edu, 8637351314.

Table 1. Herbage production and nutritive value of warm-season grasses harvested in the summer with 6 weeks regrowth interva.


Forage Species







Coastcross 2



Forage Production (lb/acre)









CP, %


















CP = crude protein 
IVTD = in vitro true digestibility