Increased urban development and the concomitant increase in turfgrass acreage have resulted in increased research of turfgrass breeding and associated management practices. In the United States, turfgrasses occupy 1.9% of the continental surface and cover an area three-times larger than any irrigated crop (Milesi et al., 2005, 2009). Turfgrasses provide functional benefits such as water quality protection, soil erosion control, and water microclimate moderation (Boyd and Wainger, 2002; Krenitsky et al., 1998; McPherson et al., 1989). Residential lawns have become one of the most fundamental landscape components providing recreational and aesthetic benefits for numerous consumers (Beard and Green, 1994). However, researchers and the public have shown growing concerns about the increasing use of resources (water, pesticides, fertilizer, etc.) for lawn maintenance and the resulting environmental problems such as soil runoff and excess nutrients and pesticides in the watershed (Alig et al., 2004; Gilliom et al., 2006; Robbins and Birkenholtz, 2003).
To fulfill the needs of consumers and to contribute to environmental sustainability, turfgrass breeding programs evaluate, develop, and introduce turfgrasses with superior traits. Previously, various turfgrass species have been assessed for pest and disease resistance (Bonos et al., 2006; Cisar, 2010; Watkins et al., 2014), climatic region adaptation (Mintenko et al., 2002), drought tolerance, and reduced nitrogen requirements (Bonos and Huff, 2013; Johnson, 2008; Watkins et al., 2014). A previous study (Yue et al., 2012) investigated priorities for North American rosaceous crop breeding programs and found that breeders regarded the two ends of the supply chain (producer/growers and the consumers) as the most important parties when setting trait priorities. Turfgrass breeding, like other product development activities, determines the inherent physical characteristics of the turfgrass variety and creates value for stakeholders in the supply chain (Solomon and Stuart, 2003). Because of the substantial evidence suggesting that market-driven businesses are more likely to be economically successful, it is useful to investigate whether turfgrass suppliers adopt a market-driven approach.
To our knowledge, no study has investigated the practices and challenges of turfgrass breeders and distributors. Our specific objectives were as follows: 1) to identify the primary parties influencing how turfgrass breeders and distributors prioritize turfgrass traits; 2) to evaluate how technical considerations influence how these priorities are set; 3) to identify challenges turfgrass breeders encounter when determining and implementing target traits for breeding; and 4) to investigate differences in the practices and challenges encountered by breeders/distributors when breeding/distributing turfgrasses with different uses and how demographics profiles and program characteristics affect such differences.
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