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  • Author or Editor: Eric Watkins x
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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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Public concern for the conservation of pollinating insect communities, such as bees, has created demand for more florally diverse landscapes. In urban environments, lawns form a large portion of cultivated land, and are typically managed to exclude flowering species richness. In this study, we investigated the establishment of eight flowering plants with pollinator value (plants that provide floral nectar and pollen for visiting insects) when coseeded with the turfgrass hard fescue (Festuca brevipila Tracey). The study was established as a dormant seeding at two locations in central Minnesota with substantially different soil types. Plots were maintained at either a 6- or 9-cm mowing height. We monitored these plantings over the 2014, 2015, and 2016 growing seasons for vegetative establishment and flowering of planted forbs. Of the eight forbs tested, Trifolium repens L., Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata (W. Bartram) Hultén, Thymus serpyllum auct. non L., and Astragalus crassicarpus Nutt. established in at least one location. Mowing height did not affect vegetative establishment, but had a negative effect on the number of blooms produced by P. vulgaris ssp. lanceolata. Vegetative establishment was affected by location, with P. vulgaris ssp. lanceolata establishing in higher abundance in the moist loamy site, whereas T. serpyllum and A. crassicarpus established in higher abundance at the dry sandy site. This study represents an important first step in identifying appropriate plants and management practices for improving lawns as a resource for pollinators.

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Prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) is a native cool-season C3 grass that has shown potential as a low-input turfgrass. An increased understanding of the physiological and molecular responses of prairie junegrass to water-deficit conditions is important for developing cultivars with enhanced drought tolerance. The objective of this study was to characterize the antioxidative responses and candidate gene expression in prairie junegrass subjected to drought stress. Two drought-tolerant (TOL-1 and TOL-2) and two drought-susceptible (SUS-1 and SUS-2) genotypes of prairie junegrass were subjected to 7 days of drought stress. Leaf relative water content (RWC) of SUS-1 and SUS-2 was 72.1% and 73.8% and RWC of TOL-1 and TOL-2 was 90.1% and 85.4% in drought-stressed plants, respectively. Drought stress did not affect chlorophyll fluorescence, lipid peroxidation, and antioxidative enzyme activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), peroxidase, ascorbate peroxidase (APX), or glutathione reductase for tolerant or susceptible genotypes. The TOL-2 and SUS-2 genotypes were further examined for candidate gene expression. Drought stress did not alter expression levels of CAT and chloroplastic copper/zinc SOD (Cu/ZnSOD), but increased levels of APX in either genotype, compared with their relative controls. Expression of P5CS encoding Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase and P5CR encoding Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductase for proline biosynthesis were up-regulated under drought stress for both genotypes; however, expression of P5CR was more strongly induced under drought stress for TOL-2, compared with its control. The expression of 1-FFT encoding fructan:fructan 1-fructosyltransferase, which is involved in fructan biosynthesis, was strongly induced under drought stress for TOL-2 but not detected under either control or drought stress conditions for SUS-2. These results indicate that the genes involved in proline and fructan biosynthesis may play an important role in drought tolerance in prairie junegrass.

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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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Outdoor water use, especially for lawn and landscaping irrigation, accounts for a substantial proportion of residential water use and often peaks during summer months. Understanding how to reduce outdoor water use can play a critical role in balancing the increasing demand for and subsequent protection of water resources. This study aims to find out if information-based strategies can be effective in reducing homeowners’ water use as well as identifying the key determinants that can enhance water conservation campaigns. Using online survey data from 2077 randomly selected urban homeowners with home lawns in a relatively water-rich state, we found that social norm-based information is generally more effective to promote household water conservation behavior than education information. Moreover, the results showed that the households’ water-saving actions, lawn watering knowledge, awareness for local water scarcity, attitudes toward water conservation, socio-demographics, and landscape characteristics all play a role in determining household water conservation intention.

Open Access

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Open Access