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Joseph G. Robins, Blair L. Waldron and Paul G. Johnson

With the exception of the undesirable characteristic of summer dormancy and the accompanying low aesthetic value, crested wheatgrass has many desirable characteristics in semiarid environments, making it a promising candidate for lower water use turf. Using a population of 27 half-sib families, this study characterized the underlying genetics of turf quality (based on a 1–9 rating scale) of crested wheatgrass and compared the performance of crested wheatgrass turf with traditional control cultivars (‘Cody’ buffalograss, ‘Gazelle’ tall fescue, ‘Manhattan 3’ perennial ryegrass, and ‘Midnight’ Kentucky bluegrass) over 2 years under space-planted conditions. Heritability estimates were generally high (h2 = 0.44 to 0.84) and suggested a strong additive genetic component for crested wheatgrass turf quality throughout the summer months. Genotypic correlations among the monthly turf quality scores were very high (greater than 0.90) indicating a strong commonality for the genetics underlying turf quality during any point in the growing season. Thus, a breeding program aimed at improving turf quality in this population of crested wheatgrass would stand a good chance for success. However, primarily as a result of summer dormancy, the crested wheatgrass turf performed poorly compared with the control cultivars during late spring and early summer. Turf quality scores in early July were ≈3 for the crested wheatgrass half-sib families compared with scores between 5 and 6 for the traditional turf species. Thus, crested wheatgrass, for the near future, will likely be a viable turf candidate only in situations in which turf aesthetics are secondary to a desire for low-input requiring species.