Differential Physiological Responses and Genetic Variations in Fine Fescue Species for Heat and Drought Stress

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Summer decline is typically characterized by heat and drought stress and is a major concern for fine fescue species (Festuca). The objectives of this study were to examine whether heat or drought stress is more detrimental, and to determine the genotypic variations in heat and drought tolerance for fine fescues. A total of 26 cultivars, including seven hard fescues (Festuca trachyphylla), eight chewings fescues (Festuca rubra ssp. commutate), seven strong creeping red fescues (Festuca rubra ssp. rubra), two sheep fescues (Festuca ovina ssp. hirtula), and two slender creeping red fescues (Festuca rubra ssp. littoralis) were subjected to prolonged heat or drought stress in growth chambers. Several physiological parameters, including turf quality (TQ), electrolyte leakage (EL), photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) chlorophyll content (Chl), and relative water content (RWC) were measured in plants exposed to heat or drought stress. The results indicated that heat stress was more detrimental than drought stress for fine fescue species. Based on TQ and major physiological parameters (EL and Fv/Fm) under heat stress, several cultivars with good heat tolerance were selected, including ‘Blue Ray’, ‘Spartan II’, ‘MN-HD1’, ‘Shoreline’, ‘Navigator II’, ‘Azure’, ‘Beacon’, ‘Aurora Gold’, ‘Reliant IV’, ‘Marco Polo’, ‘Garnet’, ‘Wendy Jean’, ‘Razor’, and ‘Cindy Lou’. Based on TQ and major physiological parameters (EL, RWC, and Fv/Fm) under drought stress, several cultivars with good drought tolerance were selected, including ‘Spartan II’, ‘MN-HD1’, ‘Reliant IV’, ‘Garnet’, ‘Azure’, and ‘Aurora Gold’. These cultivars could be used in hot, dry, or both environments and as breeding germplasm for developing heat tolerance, drought tolerance, or both.

Contributor Notes

The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Specialty Crops Research Initiative under award number 2012-51181-19932. The authors also thank Stephanie Rossi and Cathryn Chapman for critically reviewing the manuscript.

Authors with equal contribution.

Corresponding author. E-mail: huang@aesop.rutgers.edu.

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    Turf quality of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue as affected by heat stress compared with control (no heat stress). The letter “H” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Turf quality was performed visually to evaluate overall turfgrass performance on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being brown and desiccated turf and 9 being green and healthy turf. Control line shows the averaged value of all cultivars. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

  • View in gallery

    Turf quality of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue as affected by drought stress compared with control. The letter “D” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Turf quality was performed visually to evaluate overall turfgrass performance on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being brown and desiccated turf and 9 being green and healthy turf. Control line shows the averaged value of all cultivars. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

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    Electrolyte leakage of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue as affected by heat stress compared with control. Control line shows the averaged value of all cultivars. The letter “H” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

  • View in gallery

    Electrolyte leakage of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue as affected by drought stress compared with control. Control line shows the averaged value of all cultivars. The letter “D” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

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    Photochemical efficiency of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue as affected by heat stress compared with control. Control line shows the averaged value of all cultivars. The letter “H” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

  • View in gallery

    Photochemical efficiency of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue as affected by drought stress compared with control. Control line shows the averaged value of all cultivars. The letter “D” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

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    Relative change in chlorophyll content under heat stress compared with control of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue. The letter “H” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

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    Relative change in chlorophyll content under drought stress compared with control of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue. The letter “D” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

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    Relative water content (%) of (A) chewings fescue, (B) hard fescue, (C) sheep fescue and slender creeping red fescue, and (D) strong creeping red fescue as affected by drought stress compared with control. Control line shows the averaged value of all cultivars. The letter “D” after each cultivar name stands for heat stress treatment. Vertical bars of the figure indicate least significant difference values (P ≤ 0.05) for comparison at a given day of treatment.

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    Ward’s cluster analysis of 26 fine fescue cultivars based on photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm), electrolyte leakage (EL), and turf quality (TQ) at the day 21 of heat treatment. Darker color of the value bar corresponds to higher values in terms Fv/Fm, EL, and TQ. The square brackets connect cultivars with similar Fv/Fm, EL, and TQ. Based on the grouping by the square brackets, the 26 cultivars were categorized into four groups including “heat sensitive,” “moderate heat sensitive,” “moderate heat tolerant,” and “heat tolerant” cultivars.

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    Ward’s cluster analysis of 26 fine fescue cultivars base on photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm), electrolyte leakage (EL), relative water content (RWC), and turf quality (TQ) at day 28 of drought treatment. Darker color of the value bar corresponds to higher values in terms Fv/Fm, EL, and TQ. The square brackets connect cultivars with similar Fv/Fm, EL, and TQ. Based on the grouping by the square brackets, the 26 cultivars were categorized into four groups including “drought sensitive,” “moderate drought sensitive,” “moderate drought tolerant,” and “drought tolerant” cultivars.

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