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James W. Cross, Stacy A. Bonos, Bingru Huang and William A. Meyer

Heat and drought are two major abiotic stresses causing a decline in quality in cool-season turfgrasses during the summer. The objectives of this study were 1) to determine whether genotypic variations in turf performance during summer stress in New Jersey is related primarily to heat tolerance or drought tolerance of tall fescue; and 2) to make selections of plants tolerant to summer stress for breeding efforts. Twenty-four tall fescue genotypes exhibiting differential performance during summer months in field conditions (12 summer stress-tolerant and 12 summer stress-sensitive) were selected from the germplasm pool present at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Plants of these 24 genotypes were exposed to heat, drought, or heat + drought. There were generally no significant differences in turf quality, photochemical efficiency, relative water content, or electrolyte leakage between summer stress-tolerant and -sensitive genotypes, except in the heat treatment in which the summer stress-tolerant selections performed significantly better. The results indicate that the superior performance of the summer stress-tolerant plants under field conditions is mainly the result of superior heat tolerance.

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Tatsiana Espevig, Chenping Xu, Trygve S. Aamlid, Michelle DaCosta and Bingru Huang

Cold acclimation improves freezing tolerance in various plants, including perennial grass species. The objectives of this study were to determine protein changes in crowns of velvet bentgrass (Agrostis canina) during cold acclimation in association with freezing tolerance. Treatments consisted of: 1) nonacclimated (NA) plants maintained at 18/12 °C (day/night); 2) plants acclimated at a constant 2 °C for 4 weeks with a 10-hour photoperiod [A4 (cold acclimation)]; and 3) plants acclimated at a constant 2 °C for 4 weeks with additional subzero acclimation (SZA) at a constant –2 °C for 2 weeks (A4 + SZA2). Exposing plants to A4 significantly increased freezing tolerance, but additional SZA had no further beneficial effects on freezing tolerance, as demonstrated by the lethal temperature for 50% of the test population (LT50). Thirteen protein spots with increased abundance (up-regulated) or with decreased abundance (down-regulated) during cold acclimation were identified for biological functions. Proteins up-regulated after cold acclimation (A4 or A4 + SZA2) included methionine synthase, serine hydroxymethyltransferase, aconitase, UDP-D-glucuronate decarboxylase, and putative glycine-rich protein. Cold acclimation-responsive proteins involved in amino acid metabolism, energy production, stress defense, and secondary metabolism could contribute to the improved freezing tolerance induced by cold acclimation in velvet bentgrass.

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Eleni M. Abraham, William A. Meyer, Stacy A. Bonos and Bingru Huang

This study was designed to investigate differential responses of hybrids from Texas bluegrass (Poa arachnifera Torr.) × Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) (KBG) and KBG genotypes to drought and heat stress. Plants of two hybrids, ‘845’ and ‘BDF’, and two KBG genotypes (‘Midnight’ and ‘C-74’) were grown under optimal temperature (22/18 °C) and well-watered (control) or unwatered (drought) or superoptimal temperatures (35/30 °C; heat stress) conditions for 35 days in growth chambers. Under optimal conditions, the two hybrids and two KBG genotypes were not significantly different in turf quality, leaf photochemical efficiency expressed as chlorophyll fluorescence ratio (Fv/Fm), leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pn), transpiration rate, water use efficiency (WUE), root dry matter, or root viability. The results suggest that the interspecific hybridization resulted in similar growth and physiological traits in the hybrid bluegrass as in a turf-type species under optimal temperature and irrigation regimes. Under drought stress, all these parameters were comparable to those for KBG ‘Midnight’, but significantly higher than the corresponding parameters for KBG ‘C-74’. Under heat stress, both hybrids had significantly higher turf quality, Fv/Fm, Pn, transpiration rate, WUE, root dry weight in deeper soil depth (40 to 60 cm), and root viability in the upper 40-cm layer compared with both KBG genotypes. These results suggested that hybrid bluegrass exhibited improvement in drought and heat tolerance, particularly in comparison with KBG ‘C-74’, but to a great extent for heat tolerance. The maintenance of higher transpiration and photosynthesis, WUE, and root viability was associated with the improvement in heat tolerance in hybrid bluegrass.

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Jinyu Wang, Patrick Burgess, Stacy A. Bonos, William A. Meyer and Bingru Huang

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 (F v/F m) 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 F v/F m) 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 F v/F m) 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.