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Rustproofing the GrassBy Kathryn Barry Stelljes
December 9, 1996
Two new grass germplasm lines resist stem rust ten times more effectively than existing varieties. Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service developed tall fescue line ORTFRR-T94 for use as a turf grass, and ORTFRR-F94 as forage.
Stem rust became a significant problem for grass seed producers of Oregons Willamette Valley in 1987.
Growers in this valley produce 97 percent of the countrys certified tall fescue seed. Now growers spend $27 million annually on fungicide to control the rust. If unchecked, the rust can reduce grass seed yields by 80 percent.
In laboratory tests, more than 50 percent of the plants in the new germplasm lines demonstrated resistance to the rust. Only about 5 percent of the plants in existing commercial cultivars showed this resistance. Field tests are underway.
Researchers cross-bred 1,400 plants representing 20 tall fescue cultivars over two generations to develop the two germplasm lines.
Small quantities of seed are available for researchers and industry to further develop the lines into rust-resistant cultivars.