Sod Solutions is sad to announce the passing of Australian turfgrass developer Rod Riley. He died December 3 after a lengthy illness. Riley is best known in the United States as the developer of Celebration Bermudagrass.
Even at age 14, as an aspiring greenskeeper in his native Australia, Riley knew the bermudagrasses he maintained needed improvement. His keen eye longed for consistent texture, darker color and better fall color retention. His workman’s instinct desired more shade tolerance, less maintenance and increased drought tolerance.
During the years that followed, Dr. Riley used his eye, his instinct, his education and his greenskeeping experience to craft better bermudas. The results of his work have benefited homeowners, landscape professionals and sports turf managers worldwide. Dr. Riley devoted his professional career to the development of superior strains of bermudagrass (called “couch grass” in Australia). Riley’s first commercial release was called Greenlees Park Couch. It was released in the 1960’s and has subsequently become the industry turf standard used across Australia. Greenlees Park Couch had such an impact on the Australian turf industry that in 1992 he received the Order of Australia Medal.
At the turn of the millennium, Dr. Riley released a grass called Riley’s Super Sport in Australia. Its superior characteristics led Riley to expand the grass globally; giving licensing and distribution rights outside of Australia to Sod Solutions. Sod Solutions released the variety under the brand name Celebration.
Riley was a turfgrass innovator who literally changed the Australian landscape. His influence on the rest of the world is still being felt, as Celebration is one of the fastest growing bermudagrass cultivars on the market. Sod Solutions wishes to send its thoughts and prayers to the Riley family.