Japanese lawngrass (Z. japonica) and Manilagrass (Z. matrella) are collectively referred to as zoysiagrass in the United States; however, Z. japonica is more cold-hardy than the Z. matrella (Patton, 2009). Meyer zoysiagrass, a Z. japonica cultivar, has been the predominant cultivar used in the transition zone since its release in 1952 as a result of its good freezing tolerance and low pesticide and nitrogen requirements (Fry and Huang, 2004). Since the release of ‘Meyer’, researchers at Texas A&M University have developed several Z. matrella cultivars with high turf quality, including better density, finer texture, and better color compared with ‘Meyer’. Among these cultivars are Diamond, Cavalier, and Zorro. Unfortunately, these cultivars are not suitable for use in the transition zone as a result of lack of freezing tolerance (Fry and Huang, 2004).
Since 2004, turfgrass researchers at Kansas State University have evaluated over 600 new zoysiagrass progeny for winter survival and quality (Fry et al., 2008). These progeny were the result of interspecific crosses made at Texas AgriLife Research-Dallas Urban Solutions Center, most of which involved one parent from Z. japonica and one from a Z. matrella cultivar or ‘Emerald’ zoysiagrass. The ideal result of these efforts would be a dense, fine-textured zoysiagrass with quality similar to the aforementioned Z. matrella cultivars but freezing tolerance as good as or better than ‘Meyer’.
One of the primary complaints regarding ‘Meyer’ from transition zone turf managers is its slow rate of vegetative establishment (Patton and Reicher, 2007; Patton et al., 2004, 2006; Zuk and Fry, 2005). Although cultural practices have been evaluated for their effects on rate of zoysiagrass establishment, most of them have been shown to have little effect (Fry and Dernoeden, 1987; Patton and Reicher, 2007; Richardson and Bordelon, 2000; Richardson and Boyd, 2001).
Researchers have shown that zoysiagrasses vary widely in establishment rate, which is dependent on genotype. Cultivars of Z. japonica have been reported to have the fastest establishment rate followed by Z. matrella and then Z. tenuifolia (Brosnan and Deputy, 2008; Patton and Reicher, 2007).
Fry (1984) compared the establishment rate and stolon growth characteristics of five Z. japonica lines, ‘Emerald’, and a Z. matrella cultivar in Maryland. When planted as 5-cm diameter plugs on 30-cm centers, ‘Midwest’, a Z. japonica, and Bel-Zrt-1, an experimental Z. japonica, had the greatest coverage rate. Coverage of ‘Meyer’ was comparable to ‘Belair’ (Z. japonica), ‘Emerald’, and Z. matrella. The Z. matrella produced the greatest number of stolons, but all others were similar. Bel-Zrt-1 and ‘Midwest’ had the longest stolons, but ‘Meyer’ had the most nodes per stolon.
Z. japonica cultivars that had been seeded or planted vegetatively had greater coverage 91 d after planting than vegetatively established Z. matrella cultivars in Indiana (Patton et al., 2007). In particular, the Z. japonica lines DALZ 0102, ‘El Toro’, and ‘Chinese Common’ were among those exhibiting the fastest rate of coverage. Conversely, ‘Emerald’ and the Z. matrella cultivars Cavalier and Diamond were among the slowest cultivars both in terms of rate of coverage and stolon elongation rates. ‘Zorro’, another Z. matrella, had a faster establishment rate than ‘Cavalier’, ‘Diamond’, or ‘Meyer’ (Patton et al., 2007).
In southern California, a comparison of establishment rates of ‘El Toro’ (Z. japonica), ‘Emerald’, and a selection from Z. matrella indicated that ‘El Toro’ was fully established in 3 months, whereas ‘Emerald’ and the Z. matrella required 4 months for complete coverage, whether established from plugs or sprigs (Gibeault and Cockerham, 1988).
More information is needed on growth characteristics and establishment rates of promising zoysiagrasses that could be used in the transition zone. Therefore, our objective was to evaluate the stolon growth characteristics and establishment rates of new zoysiagrass progeny and determine the relationship among these characteristics and coverage.
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