‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ Ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides

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  • 1 Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, University of Georgia, Tifton Campus, 2360 Rainwater Road, Tifton, GA 31793

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Pennisetum alopecuroides (L.) Spreng. is a perennial warm-season grass native to Asia and Australia that is used mainly as an ornamental in the United States. This species is frequently referred to as “fountain grass,” which can be misleading because a number of Pennisetum species use this common name designation. The Missouri Botanical Gardens (2020) website ‘Pennisetum alopecuroides’ reports that cultivars usually range in height from 0.75 to 1.5 m.

Reduced seed production in vegetatively propagated ornamentals and turfgrass is a desirable trait because it helps maintain the purity of a commercial cultivar. Seed-sterile turfgrasses have been developed by creating triploid interspecific hybrids and by using gamma radiation (Baxter and Schwartz, 2018). Seed set in Miscanthus sinensis Andersson (1855) has been reduced by ploidy manipulation (Ranney and Touchell, 2016) and gamma radiation (Hanna and Schwartz, 2019).

‘Desert Plains’ (Trucks, 2010) and ‘Ginger Love’ (Horvath, 2016) are P. alopecuroides cultivars developed from seedling selections. ‘JS Jommenik’ (Spruyt, 2016) was selected as a shoot mutation. All are vegetatively propagated P. alopecuroides patented cultivars, but none mentions seed production for these cultivars in the patents. Blackman (2011) developed ‘Burgundy Bunny’ from a natural mutation and mentions no seed observed, but this cultivar was not compared to a seed-producing genotype. Hanna and Schwartz (2020) significantly reduced seed production in ‘PralineTM’ (‘Tift H18’) and ‘Hush PuppyTM’ (‘Tift PA5’) with cobalt 60 gamma radiation. Our objective was to use cobalt 60 gamma radiation to reduce seed production in P. alopecuroides genotypes with desirable ornamental characteristics.

‘Tift PA17’ (PP31,062), ‘Tift PA18’ (PP31,097), and ‘Tift PA19’ (PP31,176) are perennial P. alopecuroides selections with desirable ornamental characteristics and significantly reduced seed production. They were approved for release by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2016 after evaluation in Tifton, GA (elevation, 107.9 m; lat. 31.4505°N, long. 83.5085°W) and Blairsville, GA (elevation, 573.9 m; lat. 34.8762°N, long. 83.9582°W). They were compared with Tift PA24, a seed-fertile P. alopecuroides genotype with desirable ornamental characteristics, at both locations. Cultivars were tested on a Tifton loamy sand and a Transylvania clay loam in Tifton and Blairsville, respectively. Their active growing seasons are April through November in Tifton and May through October in Blairsville. The 20-year average monthly rainfall values for the growing season were 114 mm (range, 94–121 mm) and 90 mm (range 68 to 118 mm) in Blairsville and Tifton, respectively. The 20-year average monthly high temperatures for the growing season are 26 °C (range, 21 to 29 °C) and 28 °C (range, 21 to 33 °C), whereas the average monthly low temperatures are 13 °C (range, 6 to 17 °C) and 16 °C (range, 8 to 21 °C) in Blairsville and Tifton, respectively. There were no droughts or floods and no extreme deviations in average temperatures during the testing years.

Genotypes were evaluated for inflorescence and leaf height, canopy diameter, inflorescence length and number per plant, leaf length and width, and seed set. Data for each variable were subjected to an analysis of variance. Fisher’s least significance differences at P ≤ 0.05 were used for mean separation.

Origin

Seeds from plant accession ‘Tift PS1122’, with a mixture of P. alopecuroides ecotypes sent to the United States from China in 1999, were irradiated on 11 Nov. 2010 with 20 Kr of cobalt 60 gamma radiation. Two-hundred thirty plants were planted in the field in Tifton on 29 Mar. 2011. In 2011, eight of the 230 plants grown from the seeds treated with 20-Kr were evaluated and selected based on their morphological desirability and reduced seed set. Open-pollinated seeds (a second generation of seeds) of these eight selected plants were harvested and irradiated with 10 Kr of cobalt 60 on 10 Jan. 2012. One-hundred forty-two plants were established in the field in Tifton in 2012 from three of the eight plants selected in 2011. No plants were established from seed of five of the selections after the second cycle of cobalt 60 radiation on 10 Jan. 2012. Plants grown from irradiated seeds usually have chimeras or sectors for the trait of interest. Therefore, plants with desirable ornamental characteristics were divided into four quadrants: “a” was 3 o’clock and, moving around the plant counterclockwise, “b” was 12 o’clock, “c” was 9 o’clock, and “d” was 6 o’clock; these were transplanted to the field in 2011. As many propagules as possible were sampled from each quadrant, and five or more inflorescences from each quadrant were examined for female fertility. The highly seed-sterile plant 125, sector “a” on plant number 137, and sectors “a,” “c,” and “d” on plant 140 were all selected and asexually propagated to produce ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’, respectively.

‘Tift PA17’ (Supplemental Figs. 1 and 2), ‘Tift PA18’ (Supplemental Figs. 3 and 4), and ‘Tift PA19’ (Supplemental Figs. 5 and 6) were tested in Tifton and Blairsville from 2012 through 2015. Evaluation tests consisted of five and four single plant replications arranged in a randomized complete block experiment in Tifton and Blairsville, respectively. Propagules were rooted and established in the greenhouse 6 weeks before being transplanted to the field on 160-cm centers. Weeds were controlled by both chemical and mechanical methods. Plots were only irrigated at planting to ensure uniform establishment. Other experimental entries were included in each test. Tift PA24 was selected from Tift PS1122 and served as the seed-fertile control with desirable ornamental characteristics (Supplemental Fig. 7). Experiments were established each year and data were obtained from 1-year-old plants, except the 2015 measurements in Blairsville, which were obtained from 2-year-old plants.

Description and Performance

‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ were generally equal to or significantly shorter from ground level to the top of the inflorescence (Table 1) and height of leaves (Table 2) compared with Tift PA24. Only ‘Tift PA18’ had significantly taller inflorescence height in 2015, and ‘Tift PA18’ had significantly taller leaf height during 3 of 4 years than Tift PA24 in Blairsville. ‘Tift PA17’ had the tallest leaves according to the Tifton test in 2014. Canopy diameter (Table 3) was generally similar among the cultivars, except in Blairsville in 2015, when 2-year-old plants of ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ had wider canopies than Tift PA24. ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ produced more inflorescences than Tift PA24 according to two of the five tests (Table 4). ‘Tift PA19’ produced more inflorescences than Tift PA24 according to four of the five tests. Inflorescence lengths were generally equal to or significantly shorter than those of Tift PA24 (Table 5), except that ‘Tift PA17’ had longer inflorescences during all four years in Blairsville. Leaf length and width of ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ were similar to or smaller than those of Tift PA24 (Table 6). Mature plant colors for ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ were Green-141B, Green-143A, and Green-143A, respectively, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (2007) color index. Inflorescence colors were Greyed Orange-165B, and Greyed Orange-165D for ‘Tift PA17’ and ‘Tift PA19’, respectively, and Greyed Purple-183A for ‘Tift PA18’.

Table 1.

Inflorescence heights of four Pennisetum alopecuroides selections (PA24 is the seed-fertile control) planted at two locations in Georgia.

Table 1.
Table 2.

Leaf heights of four ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides selections (PA24 is the seed-fertile control) planted at two locations in Georgia.

Table 2.
Table 3.

Canopy diameters of four ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides selections (PA24 is the seed-fertile control) at two locations in Georgia.

Table 3.
Table 4.

Number of inflorescences per plant of four ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides selections (PA24 is the seed-fertile control) at two locations in Georgia.

Table 4.
Table 5.

Inflorescence lengths of four ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides selections (PA24 is the seed-fertile control) at two locations in Georgia.

Table 5.
Table 6.

Leaf characteristics of individual plants of four ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides selections (PA24 is the seed-fertile control) at two locations in Georgia.

Table 6.

Gamma radiation of seeds successfully reduced the seed set in these three selections (Table 7). ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ produced less seed per inflorescence than Tift PA24 according to all tests (Table 7). The six seeds produced by ‘Tift PA18’ in 2013 in Blairsville were from a semi-fertile sector on one plant in the experiment. Then, this plant was removed from the population. Germination tests were conducted for seeds produced by ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, ‘Tift PA19’, and Tift PA24 in Blairsville. Seed were stored in manila envelopes for 6 months at room temperature in the threshing shed and then allowed to germinate for 45 d at 27 °C in steam-sterilized soil in the greenhouse. Seed germination tests consisted of 25 seeds from three different plants (replications) harvested in Oct. 2014 in Blairsville. Germination tests were conducted in Apr. 2015 in the greenhouse to allow seeds to experience a dormancy period and simulate field conditions Germination of the few seeds produced by ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ (Table 7) were 34%, 32%, and 16%, respectively, compared with 93% for Tift PA24, further reducing the seed-producing potential of ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’. Although we have not determined the cause of the reduced seed set in these cultivars, research involving mutagens in our laboratory (unpublished) has shown that cobalt 60 gamma radiation can break chromosomes, thereby resulting in irregular segregation at microsporogenesis and megasporagenesis and pollen and egg cell abortion.

Table 7.

Seed set per inflorescence (planted at two locations) and seed germination (from one location) of four ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides selections (PA24 is the seed-fertile control) planted in Georgia.

Table 7.

‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ are vigorous perennial ornamental P. alopecuroides cultivars with desirable leaf textures, inflorescence color and density, and plant shape. These cultivars exhibit very low seed set at both low elevations (Tifton, GA) and higher elevations (Blairsville, GA). In general, these new cultivars have more robust plant height, canopy spread, leaf texture, and inflorescence production than other reported reduced seed set cultivars such as PralineTM and Hush PuppyTM (Hanna and Schwartz, 2020).

Availability

‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ are cultivars patented by the University of Georgia. Field plantings of breeder material for ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ are maintained at the University of Georgia, Tifton Campus. As protected cultivars, ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ can be produced only by nurseries licensed by the Georgia Research Foundation. ‘Tift PA17’, ‘Tift PA18’, and ‘Tift PA19’ will be marketed as ‘EtouffeeTM’, ‘CayenneTM’, and ‘JambalayaTM’, respectively.

Literature Cited

  • Baxter, L.L. & Schwartz, B.M. 2018 History of bermudagrass turfgrass breeding research in Tifton, GA HortScience 53 1560 1561

  • Blackman, L. 2011 Pennisetum plant named ‘Burgundy Bunny’. US PP21917 P2

  • Hanna, W.W. & Schwartz, B.M. 2019 ‘M77’ Ornamental Miscanthus sinensis HortScience 54 1 3

  • Hanna, W.W. & Schwartz, B.M. 2020 ‘Tift H18’ and ‘Tift PA5’ Ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides HortScience 55 974 976

  • Horvath, B. 2016 Pennisetum alopecuroides plant named ‘Ginger Love’. US PP26442 P2

  • Ranney, T.G. & Touchell, D.H. 2016 Miscanthus sinensis grass named ‘NCMS1’. US PP26387 P3

  • Royal Horticultural Society 2007 RHS colour chart. 5th ed. Royal Horticultural Society, London

  • Spruyt, J. 2016 Pennisetum plant named ‘JS Jommenik’. US PP27435 P2

  • Trucks, G.M. 2010 Pennisetum plant named ‘Desert Plains’. US PP20,751 P2

Supplemental Fig. 1.
Supplemental Fig. 1.

‘Tift PA17’ in landscape (year of establishment) in Blairsville, GA.

Citation: HortScience horts 55, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI15318-20

Supplemental Fig. 2.
Supplemental Fig. 2.

‘Tift PA17’ in maintenance nursery (2-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

Citation: HortScience horts 55, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI15318-20

Supplemental Fig. 3.
Supplemental Fig. 3.

‘Tift PA18’ in landscape (year of establishment) in Blairsville, GA.

Citation: HortScience horts 55, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI15318-20

Supplemental Fig. 4.
Supplemental Fig. 4.

‘Tift PA18’ in maintenance nursery (2-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

Citation: HortScience horts 55, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI15318-20

Supplemental Fig. 5.
Supplemental Fig. 5.

‘Tift PA19’ in research plots (year of establishment) in Tifton, GA.

Citation: HortScience horts 55, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI15318-20

Supplemental Fig. 6.
Supplemental Fig. 6.

‘Tift PA19’ in maintenance nursery (2-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

Citation: HortScience horts 55, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI15318-20

Supplemental Fig. 7.
Supplemental Fig. 7.

Tift PA24 in maintenance nursery (1-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

Citation: HortScience horts 55, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI15318-20

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Contributor Notes

We express appreciation to the University of Georgia Research Foundation and Georgia Seed Development for financial support. We appreciate the cooperation and assistance of Ray Covington, Larry Baldree, Leanna Leach, Amanda Webb, and Jacob Kalina.

W.W.H. is the corresponding author. E-mail: whanna@uga.edu.

  • View in gallery

    ‘Tift PA17’ in landscape (year of establishment) in Blairsville, GA.

  • View in gallery

    ‘Tift PA17’ in maintenance nursery (2-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

  • View in gallery

    ‘Tift PA18’ in landscape (year of establishment) in Blairsville, GA.

  • View in gallery

    ‘Tift PA18’ in maintenance nursery (2-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

  • View in gallery

    ‘Tift PA19’ in research plots (year of establishment) in Tifton, GA.

  • View in gallery

    ‘Tift PA19’ in maintenance nursery (2-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

  • View in gallery

    Tift PA24 in maintenance nursery (1-year-old plants) in Blairsville, GA.

  • Baxter, L.L. & Schwartz, B.M. 2018 History of bermudagrass turfgrass breeding research in Tifton, GA HortScience 53 1560 1561

  • Blackman, L. 2011 Pennisetum plant named ‘Burgundy Bunny’. US PP21917 P2

  • Hanna, W.W. & Schwartz, B.M. 2019 ‘M77’ Ornamental Miscanthus sinensis HortScience 54 1 3

  • Hanna, W.W. & Schwartz, B.M. 2020 ‘Tift H18’ and ‘Tift PA5’ Ornamental Pennisetum alopecuroides HortScience 55 974 976

  • Horvath, B. 2016 Pennisetum alopecuroides plant named ‘Ginger Love’. US PP26442 P2

  • Missouri Botanical Gardens Pennisetum alopecuroides. (n.d.) 10 Apr. 2020 <https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=285289&isprofile=1&basic=Pennisetum%20alopecuroides>

  • Ranney, T.G. & Touchell, D.H. 2016 Miscanthus sinensis grass named ‘NCMS1’. US PP26387 P3

  • Royal Horticultural Society 2007 RHS colour chart. 5th ed. Royal Horticultural Society, London

  • Spruyt, J. 2016 Pennisetum plant named ‘JS Jommenik’. US PP27435 P2

  • Trucks, G.M. 2010 Pennisetum plant named ‘Desert Plains’. US PP20,751 P2

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