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.
Hybrid bermudagrasses (Cynodon dactylon × C. transvaalensis) typically have excellent wear tolerance when compared with other turfgrass species. This trait should be evaluated during variety development to reduce the risk of failure when new grasses are planted in areas with traffic stress. The objective of this research was to evaluate the wear tolerance of four hybrid bermudagrasses with differing morphological characteristics. Traffic was applied to the hybrid bermudagrass varieties ‘Tifway’, ‘TifSport’, and ‘TifTuf’, as well as an experimental hybrids (04-76) using a traffic simulator for 6 weeks. Leaf morphology (leaf width, length, and angle) and quantitative measure of density and color [normalized difference vegetation index ratio (NDVI), dark green color index (DGCI), and percent green turf color] were characterized before traffic, and then percent green turf color after 6 weeks of traffic was measured to estimate wear tolerance. ‘TifTuf’ hybrid bermudagrass provided the greatest wear tolerance, as well as the narrowest and shortest leaf lengths, greatest NDVI values and percent green color, and lowest DGCI before traffic. Conversely, 04-76 produced the poorest wear tolerance, as well as the widest and longest leaves, lowest NDVI values and percent green color, and highest DGCI values before traffic. Regression analysis determined that DGCI, leaf length, and leaf width were inversely, or negatively, correlated to wear tolerance, whereas percent green turf color before traffic was directly correlated to wear tolerance. For these hybrids, DGCI had the strongest correlation to increased wear tolerance.