were necessary to develop cultivars that would be of benefit to the livestock and turfgrass industries.
Burton began his research on bermudagrass for forage in 1936. At that time cotton was the principal crop in the southern United States, and bermudagrass was considered the worst weed that plagued cotton growers. Burton’s first hybrid bermudagrass was produced between a local bermudagrass cultivar and a cultivar from South Africa and was officially released in 1943 as Coastal bermudagrass. Coastal was a very poor producer of seed and had to be propagated by sprigs, not seed. Propagation by sprigs was met with resistance, but eventually this limitation became an important trait. Because Coastal bermudagrass produced few, if any, viable seeds, its potential as a weed in cotton fields was reduced significantly. Transforming one of the South’s worst weeds into the best forage grass became one of Burton’s greatest legacies. Burton continued working with bermudagrass. The second hybrid released was designated Coastcross, which was more easily digested by cattle. Further research resulted in the subsequent release of six additional cultivars that are grown on more than 10 million acres (nearly 4 million hectares) across the southern United States as pasture and hay for beef cattle and other livestock. More than 60 years after the release of Coastal bermudagrass, it remains one of the preferred cultivars for top hay and forage farmers. Burton developed and released Tifton 85 bermudagrass cultivar in 1992. Today there is probably more total pasture acreage of Coastal, but Tifton 85 is more productive and digestible. As new pastures are planted Tifton 85 has become the recommended cultivar to replace Coastal.
Burton’s bermudagrass hybrids increased U.S. liveweight beef production by at least 1 billion pounds. Coastcross permits farmers to produce 30 to 40 more pounds of beef per acre. Tifton 44 produced 50 more pounds of beef per