Zoysiagrass grown under shade on golf courses and in home lawns is slow to recover from injury and declines in quality over time. Tree shade reduces photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) resulting in reduced photosynthesis and altered photomorphogenesis (Bell and Danneberger, 1999; Bell et al., 2000). Furthermore, shade induces leaf elongation and results in a substantial decrease in turf density and rooting (Fry and Huang, 2004). Total nonstructural carbohydrates also decline over time in shaded zoysiagrass (Qian and Engelke, 1999; Qian et al., 1998).
Zoysiagrass cultivars from Z. japonica have been reported to have poorer shade tolerance compared with ‘Emerald’ zoysiagrass or cultivars from Z. matrella (Fry and Huang, 2004). Under 90% live oak tree [Quercus virginiana (Mill.)] shade in Dallas, TX, coverage of ‘Diamond’ (94%), ‘Zorro’ (84%), and ‘Cavalier’ (74%) was superior to ‘Meyer’ (33%) and ‘El Toro’ (Z. japonica, 65%) after 3 years of growth from plugs (Yamamoto and Engelke, 1996).
Since 2004, turfgrass researchers at Kansas State University have evaluated over 600 new zoysiagrass progeny for quality and winter survival (Fry et al., 2008). These progeny were the result of controlled pairwise crosses made at Texas AgriLife Research–Dallas, most of which were interspecific hybrids with one parent being a Z. japonica and the other ‘Emerald’ or one of several different Z. matrella genotypes. The underlying goal of this work is to develop one or more new cultivars that have good density, fine leaf texture, and quality similar to the aforementioned Z. matrella genotypes but with freezing tolerance as good or better than ‘Meyer’.
Earlier research on these experimental zoysiagrasses (Okeyo et al., 2011) and zoysiagrass cultivars (Patton et al., 2007) indicated that there is significant variability in stolon production, elongation, and rate of coverage among genotypes in full sun. We hypothesized that ‘Emerald’ × Z. japonica or reciprocal crosses of Z. matrella × Z. japonica would exhibit greater stolon growth and tillering than ‘Meyer’ in shade because one of the parents has superior shade tolerance to ‘Meyer’. The objective of this study was to evaluate stolon growth and tillering of zoysiagrass cultivars and experimental progeny in tree shade.
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