Turfgrass is extensively used as a major landscape component covering an area larger than any other irrigated crop in the United States (Milesi et al., 2005). Residential and commercial lawns provide environmental, economic, and social benefits for society (Beard and Green, 1994). However, improper management practice of turfgrass, for instance, overfertilization and excessive irrigation, can lead to negative impacts on the environment and human health (Martini et al., 2015; Milesi et al., 2005; Monaghan et al., 2016; Robbins and Birkenholtz, 2003; Robbins and Sharp, 2003). Selecting turfgrass cultivars that are both well adapted to site conditions and need fewer resources can help mitigate potential negative environmental impact. Therefore, acquiring useful information and knowledge on best turf management practices is essential to turf growers and managers.
Homeowners and public turf managers are the primary consumers and users of turfgrass seeds and sod (Beddow et al., 2001). For each turfgrass species, numerous cultivars are available (Christians et al., 2017). How they choose turfgrass cultivars and maintenance practices largely depends on their current turfgrass management knowledge (Yue et al., 2017a, 2017b). Numerous cultivars exhibit improved abiotic and biotic stress tolerance, as well as enhanced quality under limited inputs (Meyer et al., 2017). In spite of the development of low-input turfgrass cultivars, most consumers still have little awareness of the presence of these cultivars on the market (Yue et al., 2017b). Consumers also have a hard time finding reliable data sources and knowledge on turf maintenance. As previous studies suggested, turfgrass consumers trusted the information from the Cooperative Extension Service at local land-grant universities (Patton et al., 2013), but found information from the Internet as neither useful nor trustworthy (Yue et al., 2017a).
Turfgrass researchers have been collecting cultivar performance data for several decades, and typically these data are publically available on the Internet. The primary source of these data is the NTEP, which has been collecting data on major turfgrass species since the early 1980s. NTEP provides information of turfgrass features, such as quality, color, texture, density, uniformity, establishment, traffic tolerance, mowing quality, and resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses. NTEP data have been used by turfgrass researchers, extension specialists, turfgrass breeders and growers, and even some nonprofessional turfgrass consumers. However, the current data format is not user-friendly for average homeowners and other users. The NTEP website releases reports from replicated trials in a .txt file format that does not allow for the rapid queries to efficiently identify useful information. Moving NTEP and other publically available data to a modern relational database management system could make it easier for end users to get the latest and most useful information on major turfgrass species and cultivars. Possibly, users can also obtain data from future experiments that could assess the performance of turfgrass mixtures (mixtures of multiple species and cultivars) and blends (mixtures of cultivars from a single species).
Understanding the preference and needs of different users can help researchers improve the efficiency of data query and provide more valuable and reliable information. The focus of this study was to investigate the informational needs of different audiences of a turfgrass cultivar performance database. Specifically, our objectives were as follows: 1) to examine end-users’ attitudes toward different usage options for a potential new turfgrass cultivar performance database, 2) to identify the most important information users need from a turfgrass cultivar performance database, 3) to determine preferences for data format and database features, and 4) to investigate how audiences from multiple disciplines use the database differently. We hope to provide information that can be used to build a useful, impactful turfgrass cultivar performance database so that stakeholders can more readily obtain research-based information when making seed purchasing decisions.
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