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Jing Zhang, J. Bryan Unruh, and Kevin Kenworthy

Periodic drought, irrigation requirements, and the enforcement of mandatory watering restrictions have posed a challenge for homeowners and landscape managers to maintain acceptable turf quality during dry periods. Information regarding irrigation requirements and performance of common turfgrass species used for residential and commercial landscapes in the southeastern United States would be valuable. A Linear Gradient Irrigation System (LGIS) provides an efficient way to measure cultivar responses to variable moisture regimes. Nine commercially available cultivars from three turfgrass species: ‘Argentine’ bahiagrass (BH) (Paspalum notatum Flügge); ‘Common’ and ‘TifBlair’ centipedegrass (CP) [Eremochloa ophiruoides (Munro) Hack.]; ‘Captiva’, ‘Classic’, ‘Floratam’, ‘Palmetto’, ‘Raleigh’, and ‘Sapphire’ st. augustinegrass (STA) [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze.] were evaluated during naturally occurring dry periods in 2010 and 2011 for visual quality, color, and density and chlorophyll index. An irrigation gradient ranging from 0% to 120% of reference evapotranspiration (ETo) was provided by LGIS. Centipedegrass and BH had less demands on supplemental irrigation to maintain acceptable quality during periodic drought compared with STA. ‘Argentine’ BH performed similar to ‘Common’ CP for its visual quality except at the irrigation level of 40% ETo. Among STA cultivars, ‘Palmetto’ performed poorest in its relative drought response than other cultivars. ‘Sapphire’ STA needs further study to better characterize its drought response. The irrigation level of 120% ETo decreased turf quality except for ‘Argentine’ BH, and the irrigation replacement at 40% to 80% ETo, depending on turfgrass species and cultivar, may provide enough supplemental moisture to maintain acceptable turf quality during short-duration drought (≈2 weeks) in north Florida regions.

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John E. Erickson and Kevin E. Kenworthy

Irrigation of residential lawns represents one of the major uses of potable water in many regions. An increased understanding of physiological responses underlying effects of turfgrass genotypes and management practices on water use rates and water use efficiencies could contribute to water conservation. Thus, we evaluated the effects of nitrogen (N) fertilization (0.0 and 2.5 g·m−2) and light environment (full sun and 50% shade) on average daily evapotranspiration (ETAVE), daily ET per unit leaf area (ETLA), carbon exchange rate (CER), and water use efficiency (WUE) in upright (experimental TAES 5343-22) and prostrate (‘Empire’) zoysiagrasses (Zoysia japonica Steud.) during two repeated trials. Across all treatments, ETAVE was 4.0 and 5.4 mm·d−1 during Trials 1 and 2, respectively. In the upright-growing genotype, ETAVE was ≈10% greater than the prostrate genotype during Trial 1. Nitrogen fertilization increased water use by ≈20% compared with non-fertilized pots. However, N fertilization reduced ETLA and increased WUE. Thus, ETAVE was positively related with WUE. As a result, there was a tradeoff between ETAVE and WUE, indicating that efforts to achieve reductions in water use through low N fertilization or genotypes can be accomplished, but in some cases at the expense of using water less efficiently to assimilate carbon for plant growth processes. In turfgrass, reductions in growth and WUE might be acceptable to minimize water use, but vigor and quality need to be maintained.

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Georgene L. Johnson, Thomas R. Sinclair, and Kevin Kenworthy

A consistent response has been observed among many plant species in their leaf gas exchange as soils are subjected to a drying cycle; except for one case, these studies have not included turfgrass species. The current study reports the change in transpiration rate of six genotypes of seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum Swartz) during soil drying when grown on either an organic soil or sand. On organic soil, the response was consistent with results with other plant species in that there was no decline in transpiration rate until the fraction of transpirable soil water (FTSW) reached the range of 0.25 to 0.31. The decline in transpiration rate when plants were grown on sand occurred in the FTSW range of 0.10 to 0.17, which was also consistent with reports for other species when grown on sand. The lower FTSW for the decline in transpiration rate on sand appears to be a result of the greater retention of water in fully wetted sand in pot experiments as compared with field conditions. Because the decline in transpiration occurred at a higher FTSW in ‘SeaIsle Supreme’, ‘Aloha’, and ‘SeaIsle 1’ than in ‘SeaIsle 2000’, this is an indication that these genotypes are water-conserving and may be better suited to water-deficit conditions. Quality changes in these grasses were monitored daily during the drying cycle by reflectance measurements of their normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). No change in NDVI was observed for grasses grown on either soil type until the soil had become very dry and transpiration had decreased to low rates.

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Long Ma, Kevin E. Kenworthy, Huangjun Lu, and Ronald Cherry

Common carpetgrass is a warm-season grass species that is commonly used as a pasture grass in Louisiana and as an alternative low-maintenance lawn grass in the southern Unites States. Understanding genetic variation for traits related to seed production is important to determine breeding strategies for improvement. Ten genotypes were analyzed for number of branches per inflorescence, number of spikelets per branch, and percentage seed set under self-pollination and open pollination. The 10 genotypes exhibited a wide range of variation for number of spikelets per branch and seed set but had a narrow range of variation for number of branches per inflorescence. Genotype was more important than year in contributing to number of branches per inflorescence, whereas the year variance component had a greater impact on number of spikelets per branch. The relative importance of genotype and environment for seed set differed between the two modes of pollination. Broad-sense heritability was 0.35 for number of branches per inflorescence and 0.07 for number of spikelets per branch. Heritability of seed set was 0.29 when the inflorescences were selfed and 0.50 when the inflorescences were subjected to open pollination. Average percentage seed set of the 10 genotypes under self-pollination and open pollination was not significantly different. However, two of 10 genotypes had significantly different means for seed set between self-pollination and open pollination. This information should be useful to plant breeders to select appropriate breeding methods for cultivar development of common carpetgrass.

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Kevin E. Kenworthy, Dennis L. Martin, and Charles M. Taliaferro

Six African bermudagrass (Cynodon transvaalensis Burtt-Davy) genotypes, one common bermudagrass [C. dactylon (L.) Pers. var. dactylon] genotype, and ‘Tifway’ (C. dactylon × transvaalensis) hybrid bermudagrass were evaluated for shoot type, leaf angle, and shoot angle. Evaluations were conducted to determine if these measurements could be used to differentiate among upright, intermediate, and prostrate growth habits. Significant differences were found for all three techniques, but attempts to group plants together as having prostrate, intermediate, or upright growth habits was not possible. ‘Tifway’ was intermediate between the African bermudagrass genotypes and the common genotype for shoot type observations, but was more similar to upright-growing African bermudagrass for leaf angle and the more prostrate-growing common bermudagrass for shoot angle. Quantification of shoot type and leaf angle did not appear as useful as shoot angle measurements for screening germplasm to identify upright or prostrate growth habits in bermudagrass.

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Maria P. Fuentealba, Jing Zhang, Kevin E. Kenworthy, John E. Erickson, Jason Kruse, and Laurie E. Trenholm

Irrigation for commercial and residential turf is becoming limiting, and water scarcity is one of the long-term challenges facing the turfgrass industry. Potential root development and profile characteristics of turfgrass provide important information regarding their drought resistance mechanisms and developing drought-resistant cultivars. The objective of this study was to determine the potential root development and root profile characteristics of two bermudagrass species and two zoysiagrass species using experimental lines and commercial cultivars. The species evaluated in the study were: African bermudagrass (Cynodon transvaalensis Burtt-Davy), common bermudagrass (CB) [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. var. dactylon], Zoysia japonica (ZJ) (Steud), and Zoysia matrella (ZM) L. Plants were grown outdoors in clear acrylic tubes encased in poly vinyl chloride (PVC) sleeves. The experimental design was randomized complete block design with four replications. Rates of root depth development (RRDD) during the first 30 days were obtained. Root length density (RLD) in four different horizons (0–30, 30–60, 60–90, and 90–120 cm) was determined 60 days after planting. Specific root length (SRL, m·g−1) was also calculated dividing total root length by total root dry weight (RDW). The root depth in four turfgrass species increased linearly during the first 30 days after planting. Common bermudagrass (CB) had high RRDD and uniform RLD in different horizons, while ZM accumulated the majority of its roots in the upper 30 cm. Z. matrella had higher RLD than CB in the upper 30 cm. African bermudagrass had higher SRL than CB. There was limited variation within the two African bermudagrass genotypes studied except at the lowest horizon (90–120 cm). Two genotypes in CB and ZJ, respectively, including ‘UF182’ (ZJ), which consistently ranked in the top statistical group for RRDD, and RLD for every horizon, and ‘UFCD347’ (CB) demonstrated greater RLDs in the lower horizons in comparison with the commercial cultivars.

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Jennifer A. Kimball, M. Carolina Zuleta, Matthew C. Martin, Kevin E. Kenworthy, Ambika Chandra, and Susana R. Milla-Lewis

St. augustinegrass [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze] is a popular turfgrass in the southern United States as a result of its superior shade tolerance and relatively low input requirements. However, it is the least cold-tolerant of commonly used warm-season turfgrass species. ‘Raleigh’, released in 1980, has superior cold tolerance and is adapted and widely used in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8 to 9. More than 25 years after its release, ‘Raleigh’ is still the industry’s standard in terms of cold tolerance. However, the original foundation and breeder stock fields of the cultivar have been lost, placing the integrity of the cultivar at risk. The objectives of this study were to investigate whether current ‘Raleigh’ production fields across the southern United States are true to the original source. In this study, 15 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) primer combinations were used to assess levels of genetic variability among three original stocks of ‘Raleigh’ and 46 samples obtained from sod farms and universities in six states. Genetic similarities among the original stocks were Sij = 1, whereas similarities between this group and all other samples ranged from 0.24 to 1.0. Results based on cluster analysis, principal coordinate analysis, and analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed separation between original stocks of ‘Raleigh’ and some commercial samples. Results from this study offer further evidence that molecular markers provide a useful and powerful technique for identity preservation of clonally propagated cultivars and the detection of genetic variants in sod production fields and turfgrass breeding programs.

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Wenjing Pang, John E. Luc, William T. Crow, Kevin E. Kenworthy, Robert McSorley, and Robin M. Giblin-Davis

Breeding and improvement of new bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.) cultivars with superior nematode tolerance are essential because sting nematode (Belonolaimus longicaudatus Rau) is a major limitation for use of bermudagrass in the sandy coastal soils of the southeastern United States. The screening of both African (Cynodon transvaalensis) and common (C. dactylon) bermudagrass is necessary to develop triploid hybrid cultivars. Five commercial cultivars and 46 germplasm accessions of bermudagrass were tested for nematode responses in two greenhouse trials in 2009. Turfgrass was grown in sand-filled plastic conetainers and inoculated with 50 sting nematodes per conetainer. Nematode and root samples were collected 90 d after nematode inoculation. Fifteen bermudagrass accessions did not have measurable root loss from inoculation with sting nematode. Seven bermudagrass accessions, including ‘Celebration’, produced longer roots in sting nematode-infested soil than the standard ‘Tifway’. Differences in final nematode numbers were identified among the genotypes, and different relative responses were identified in variable ploidy levels and origins. This could aid a turfgrass breeding program by elucidating the genetic diversity available for breeding future bermudagrass cultivars for golf course cultivation.

Open access

Christopher D. Ryan, J. Bryan Unruh, Kevin E. Kenworthy, Alexa J. Lamm, John E. Erickson, and Laurie E. Trenholm

Every county and municipality in Florida can adopt its own unique ordinance regulating the fertilization of lawns and landscapes. With increased concern for eutrophication to state waterbodies, many have chosen to implement seasonal fertilizer restrictive periods prohibiting the application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, typically during the rainy summer months. These fertilizer “blackout” policies have been the subject of controversy among environmental activists, university scientists, and policy decision makers, with their efficacy being called into question. A Foucauldian discourse analysis was undertaken to trace the dynamics of the controversy, and survey research was conducted with Florida residents and with Florida decision makers to compare their lawncare maintenance practices, sentiments surrounding turfgrass, their trust in landscape science, as well as their awareness of policy in the city or county in which they reside. Differences were found between the two populations in terms of how many respondents fertilized, used automated irrigation systems and hand-pulled weeds. Although both populations had very neutral sentiments around turfgrass with no significant differences, Florida decision-maker respondents had a higher mean response for trust in landscape science. Only 32% of Florida resident respondents were able to accurately identify if their city or county had a blackout ordinance, compared with 81% of decision-maker respondents. Increasing civic science may be the best way for reducing this discrepancy, while also giving power to citizens in environmental policy adoption.

Free access

Karen R. Harris-Shultz, Susana Milla-Lewis, Aaron J. Patton, Kevin Kenworthy, Ambika Chandra, F. Clint Waltz, George L. Hodnett, and David M. Stelly

Zoysiagrass (Zoysia sp.) is used as a warm-season turfgrass for lawns, parks, and golf courses in the warm, humid and transitional climatic regions of the United States. Zoysiagrass is an allotetraploid species (2n = 4x = 40) and some cultivars are known to easily self- and cross-pollinate. Previous studies showed that genetic variability in the clonal cultivars Emerald and Diamond was likely the result of contamination (seed production or mechanical transfer) or mislabeling. To determine the extent of genetic variability of vegetatively propagated zoysiagrass cultivars, samples were collected from six commercially available zoysiagrass cultivars (Diamond, Emerald, Empire, JaMur, Meyer, Zeon) from five states (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas). Two of the newest cultivar releases (Geo and Atlantic) were to serve as outgroups. Where available, one sample from university research plots and two samples from sod farms were collected for each cultivar per state. Forty zoysiagrass simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers and flow cytometry were used to compare genetic and ploidy variation of each collected sample to a reference sample. Seventy-five samples were genotyped and an unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean clustering revealed four groups. Group I (Z. japonica) included samples of ‘Meyer’ and Empire11 (‘Empire’ sample at location #11), Group II (Z. japonica × Z. pacifica) included samples of ‘Emerald’ and ‘Geo’, Group III (Z. matrella) included samples of ‘Diamond’ and ‘Zeon’, and Group IV (Z. japonica) consisted of samples from ‘Empire’, ‘JaMur’, ‘Atlantic’, and Meyer3 (‘Meyer’ at sample location #3). Samples of ‘Empire’, ‘Atlantic’, and ‘JaMur’ were indistinguishable with the markers used. Four samples were found to have alleles different from the respective reference cultivar, including two samples of ‘Meyer’, one sample of ‘Empire’, and one sample of ‘Emerald’. Three of these samples were from Texas and one of these samples was from Florida. Three of the four samples that were different from the reference cultivar were university samples. In addition, one sample, Empire11, was found to be an octoploid (2n = 8x = 80). For those samples that had a fingerprint different from the reference cultivar, contamination, selfing, and/or hybridization with other zoysiagrasses may have occurred.