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Eric Watkins, Andrew B. Hollman, and Brian P. Horgan

As restrictions on water use, fertilization, and pesticide applications continue to increase, golf course superintendents will need to use grass species that require reduced inputs. The objective of this study was to evaluate alternative turfgrass species under low-input fairways conditions. In 2005, 17 species were established on native soil in St. Paul, MN. Each species was evaluated at three levels of traffic (zero, three, or six passes per week using a drum-type traffic simulator) and two mowing heights (1.90 and 2.54 cm). Data collected included turfgrass quality and percent living stand density. In 2006, velvet bentgrass (Agrostis canina L.), colonial bentgrass (Agrostis capillaris L.), and creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) maintained acceptable quality in all treatment combinations. In 2007, Chewings fescue (Festuca rubra L. ssp. fallax) and sheep fescue (Festuca ovina L.) were the top-performing species regardless of treatment. Hard fescue (Festuca brevipila Tracey) performed poorly in Year 1 and well in Year 2. All other species did not perform at an acceptable level during the study. The results of this study indicate that sheep fescue, Chewings fescue, colonial bentgrass, and velvet bentgrass should be studied further for use on low-input golf course fairways in the northern United States.

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Austin L. Grimshaw, Yuanshuo Qu, William A. Meyer, Eric Watkins, and Stacy A. Bonos

In recent years, turfgrass breeders have given increased attention to the development of lower maintenance turfgrass cultivars. Fine fescues (Festuca spp.) have been identified as potential candidate species for low-maintenance lawns because of their reduced need for water, mowing, and fertilizer. Unfortunately, these species have some weaknesses that must be improved to facilitate their use; perhaps, the most important of these is tolerance to wear and traffic. For this trait to be improved in new cultivars, there must be sufficient heritable variation available for plant breeders to exploit; however, little is known about the heritability of this complex trait in fine fescue species. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the heritability of wear and traffic tolerance in three fine fescue species. Replicated field studies were established in North Brunswick, NJ, and St. Paul, MN, and each included 157 Chewing’s fescue (Festuca rubra L. subsp. fallax), 155 hard fescue (Festuca brevipilia), and 149 strong creeping red fescue (F. rubra L. subsp. rubra) genotypes. Wear tolerance was evaluated in North Brunswick and traffic tolerance was evaluated in St. Paul during 2015 and 2016 using different simulators to determine both plant performance and broad-sense heritability estimates for wear and traffic tolerance. Broad-sense heritability estimates for the three species when calculated on a clonal basis was between 0.69 and 0.82 for wear tolerance in the North Brunswick location and between 0.49 and 0.60 for traffic tolerance in the St. Paul location. On a single-plant basis, broad-sense heritability estimates for the three species were between 0.31 and 0.45 for wear tolerance in the North Brunswick location and 0.09 and 0.12 for traffic tolerance in St. Paul. However, this research does indicate that improvement of wear and traffic tolerance in fine fescues is possible through recurrent breeding methods based on selection of replicated clonally propagated genotypes rather than selection of single individual plants of a population. This was the first study to determine the genetic effects of wear and traffic tolerance in any turfgrass species.

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Daniel R. Miller, Robert J. Mugaas, Mary H. Meyer, and Eric Watkins

Several studies have been conducted on low-maintenance turfgrass species; however, relatively few have evaluated mixtures or blends. The objective of this study was to evaluate low-maintenance turfgrass mixtures or blends for turf quality under minimal input conditions. Eight turfgrass mixtures or blends were planted in 2009 at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (Chaska, MN) on a low-fertility soil to assess their adaptability to low-input conditions (minimal water and fertilizer and no pesticides after establishment). The year after establishment, plots were divided into no-mow and minimal mow treatments. Plots were evaluated for establishment in 2009 and overall quality and percent weed cover in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Native grass mixtures established slowly with greater weed encroachment, but over time resulted in high-quality ratings. Under minimal mowing, the Tall Fescue Blend [tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea)] performed the best for quality, while three fine fescue (Festuca sp.) mixtures and the Tall Fescue/Kentucky Bluegrass Mixture [tall fescue + kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis)] also had acceptable quality ratings. The Kentucky Bluegrass Blend (kentucky bluegrass) was less competitive with weeds and had unacceptable quality ratings. Under no-mow conditions, the native grass mixtures and the Tall Fescue Blend had the highest overall quality ratings.

Open access

Chengyan Yue, Jingjing Wang, Eric Watkins, Yiqun Xie, Shashi Shekhar, Stacy A. Bonos, Aaron Patton, Kevin Morris, and Kristine Moncada

Identifying sources of turfgrass cultivar performance data can be difficult for many consumers. Currently, the best source for data of this type is the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP). Unfortunately, these data are made public in a format that is not readily usable for most consumers. Ideally, turfgrass cultivar data would be available in an easily accessible database. We conducted an online survey to investigate user preferences for accessing publically available turfgrass performance data in the United States. We found users desire a turfgrass cultivar performance database that allows for the identification of cultivars best adapted and tolerant to environmental stresses. The information on turfgrass mixtures and blends is also important to most users. Users’ sociodemographic backgrounds, such as gender, education, occupation, and experience in the turf industry, affected their attitudes toward information provided in the turfgrass database. Turfgrass consumers need the new database to provide information on identifying turfgrass options that are resource efficient and endophyte resistant. Turfgrass breeders, researchers, and extension specialists use the turfgrass database to compare different turfgrasses cultivars to do further analysis. The results of this study provide important implications on how an updated turfgrass cultivar performance database and platform can fulfill the different needs of turfgrass researchers, extension personnel, breeders, and stakeholders.

Free access

Chengyan Yue, Jingjing Wang, Eric Watkins, Stacy A. Bonos, Kristen C. Nelson, James A. Murphy, William A. Meyer, and Brian P. Horgan

The development and evaluation of new turfgrass cultivars require considerable resources. A systematic understanding of the breeders’ and distributors’ trait selection behavior can provide a basis for making adjustments and improvements based on industry needs and thus accelerate the breeding process and make it more efficient. The objective of this study is to investigate the selection priorities for turfgrass traits and identify the most influential factors affecting turfgrass breeders’ and distributors’ likelihood of selecting turfgrass traits. Results show that the most important trait clusters for both breeders and distributors were abiotic stress resistance and growth characteristics. Breeders were more likely than distributors to select appearance traits when setting trait priorities. Program characteristics such as program size, education level, and being a male respondent had positive effects on the reported likelihood of selecting studied turfgrass traits, and these effects varied for different trait clusters.

Free access

Chengyan Yue, Jingjing Wang, Eric Watkins, Stacy A. Bonos, Kristen C. Nelson, James A. Murphy, William A. Meyer, and Brian P. Horgan

An online survey was conducted to investigate the current practices of and challenges for turfgrass breeders and turfgrass seed distributors (or sales staff) in the United States. We found that turfgrass seed breeders rated producers/growers and consumers as more important parties compared with other interested parties. However, variations in ratings were found for breeders/distributors according to different program characteristics. The volume of seed sales of the species was the most highly rated technical consideration for both breeders and distributors. Compared with distributors, breeders considered the following technical factors more important than others: funding, labor, field trial performance, diversity in working priorities, availability of germplasms, scheduling, and staff training. Costs, followed by resource allocation and resource availability, were rated as the most challenging factors when breeders were implementing priorities. Our findings provide important insight regarding breeding and distribution practices and management in the turfgrass industry.