Morphological Characterization of Turf-type Tall Fescue Genotypes

in HortScience
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  • 1 Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, Rutgers University, 59 Dudley Road, Foran Hall, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Recently, turfgrass breeders have developed many improved turf-type tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) cultivars. Due to the large number of cultivars currently available to turfgrass managers and researchers, we have classified turf-type tall fescue cultivars into six groups based primarily on several morphological measurements. This type of classification is important for turfgrass breeders because many breeding decisions are made based on observations in a spaced-plant nursery. The major objective of this study was to classify tall fescue cultivars and selections based on spaced-plant measurements and to then compare those results with turf performance. A spaced-plant nursery consisting of 36 cultivars and selections was established in September 1998 at Adelphia, N.J. Plant height, panicle length, flag leaf width and length, subtending leaf width and length, and subtending internode length were measured 10 days after anthesis in 1999 and 2000. Additionally, a turf trial was established at North Brunswick, N.J., that included the same 36 cultivars and selections. The turf plots were evaluated for several traits including overall turfgrass quality, density, and susceptibility to brown patch disease. Based on principal component analysis of morphological measurements, along with turf trial data, all cultivars and selections were assigned to one of six groups: forage, early-standard, standard, early semi-dwarf, semi-dwarf, and dwarf. In turf plots, the semi-dwarf, early-semi dwarf, and dwarf groups were the top-performing types in terms of overall turfgrass quality, and the forage and early-standard cultivars had the lowest overall quality ratings. The dwarf types did not perform well under summer stress, especially in terms of brown patch disease incidence. The results of this study suggest that when developing cultivars for higher maintenance situations, turf-type tall fescue breeders should focus on the development of semi-dwarf cultivars.

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