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Hrvoje Rukavina, Harrison G. Hughes and Yaling Qian

Freezing is the major abiotic stress that limits geographic distribution of warm season turfgrasses. Prior studies have indicated variation in freezing tolerance in saltgrass clones. Therefore, this study examined freezing tolerance of 27 saltgrass clones as related to collection sites in three zones of cold hardiness. Furthermore, these clones were evaluated for time of leaf browning in the fall with the intent to determine if there was a correlation between this trait and freezing tolerance. Rhizomes were sampled during 2004 and 2005 midwinters from clones established in Fort Collins, Colo., and then subjected to a freezing test in a programmable freezer. Saltgrass freezing tolerance was highly influenced by the climatic zone of clone origin in both years of the experiment. Clones with greater freezing tolerance turned brown earlier in fall in both seasons. Ranking of zones for the average LT50 (lethal temperature at which 50% of rhizomes died) was: zone 4, most northern (−17.2 °C) < zone 5 (−14.4 °C), < zone 6, most southern (−11.1 °C) in 2004, and zone 4 (−18.3 °C), < zone 5 (−15.7 °C) < zone 6 (−13.1 °C) in 2005. Clones from northern areas tolerated lower freezing temperatures overall. This likely indicates that freezing tolerance is inherited. Large intraspecific variation in freezing tolerance may be effectively used in developing cold hardy cultivars.