Location: Forage and Range Research
Title: Genetic characterization of Kyrgyzstan fine-leaved Festuca valesiaca germplasm for use in semi-arid low-maintenance turf applications Authors
Submitted to: Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 17, 2013
Publication Date: August 24, 2013
Citation: Ma, Y., Staub, J.E., Robbins, M.D., Johnson, P.G., Larson, S.R. 2013. Genetic characterization of Kyrgyzstan fine-leaved Festuca valesiaca germplasm for use in semi-arid low-maintenance turf applications. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 61:185-197. Interpretive Summary: Given the increasing limitations placed on U.S. water supplies, there is an increasing need to develop drought and heat tolerant grasses of urban and agricultural uses. Turfgrass is the most widely planted irrigated crop in the United States and has multi-billion dollar economic impacts. Both native and introduced fine-leaved fescue type grasses are important species used in low-maintenance turf applications throughout much of North America including some of the western U.S. Historically, plants have been collected from their area of origin to provide needed genetic resources for germplasm preservation and use in plant improvement programs. Several plant exploration expeditions have been made to Eurasia since 1898 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA; initial collections by Frank N. Meyer and David Fairchild), which collected various fescue grass species for potential use in pasture and turf applications. Most recently, fescue collections have been made by the USDA in Kyrgyzstan (2006), Inner Mongolia (2006) and Russia (2010), where environmental conditions are similar to those of the western U.S. Their collections have not been evaluated for their horticultural or agronomic potential for low-maintenance applications. Therefore, a project was designed to evaluate the genetic variation of these collections under semi-arid conditions of the western U.S. Great Basin. Given their agronomic attributes (drought and heat tolerance) three of 30 collections which reside in the national U.S. germplasm collection should be considered for use in low maintenance, semi-arid turf improvement programs in the western U.S. Private and public breeding programs to introduce genes for drought and heat tolerance from these collections into commercial turfgrass, which reduce water consumption in urban settings (lawns, parks, and golf courses) should be considered to increase water-use efficiency.
Technical Abstract: Fine-leaved Festuca valesiaca Shleidcher ex. Gaudin (2n = 2x-4x) is native to heavily grazed, cold, semi-arid, Asian rangelands. However, its potential for low-maintenance turf applications in the semi-arid western United States and its relatedness to other agriculturally important Festuca species has not been investigated. Therefore, a project was designed to identify F. valesiaca accessions that possess horticultural potential when grown under semi-arid growing conditions and to characterize their relatedness to other Festuca species. In 2008, 12 F. valesiaca accessions originating from Kyrgyzstan and eight U.S. cultivars were transplanted as replicated spaced plants to a field nursery at Blue Creek, Utah. Relative vigor, height, width, total biomass (dry matter yield), seed weight, and seed number were evaluated between 2009 and 2011. Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis (1,530 bands) was used to characterize F. valesiaca relatedness to other economically important Festuca species. Plant height, width, and total biomass of the F. valesiaca accessions examined were equal to the commercial control, 'Cascade' [F. rubra L. subsp. commutata (Gaudin) Markgr.-Dann; 6x; chewings fescue]. Plant vigor and seed weight of F. valesiaca accessions PI 659923, PI 659932, W6 30575, and W6 30588 under semi-arid conditions (~300 mm annual precipitation) were significantly (p < 0.05) greater than 'Cascade'. Moreover, principal component analysis using all traits as loading factors indicated that these F. valesiaca accessions were distinct from a majority of the other Festuca accessions examined. These F. valesiaca accessions produced abundant amounts of small seed, and this seed yield was significantly correlated with total biomass (r2 - 0.84, P < 0.001), plant height (r2 = 0.58, P < 0.05), and plant vigor (r2 = 0.83, P < 0.001). An AFLP-based, neighbor-joining analysis differentiated F. valesiaca accessions from U.S. Festuca cultivars examined, except for 'Dura' (F. ovina L.; 6x, sheep fescue), to which they had strong genetic affinities. Given their morphological attributes, F. valesiaca PI 659923, W6 30575, PI 659932, and W6 30588 should be considered for use in low maintenance, semi-arid turf improvement programs in the western U.S.