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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Floral and Nursery Plants Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The objectives of the National Evaluation Program (NTEP) are to develop and coordinate uniform evaluation trials of turfgrass varieties and experimental selections in the United States and Canada.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Cooperate with university and private industry personnel in establishing, maintaining and collecting data from turfgrass trials. The NTEP will be responsible for the summarization and distribution of data collected

3. Progress Report:
This is the final report for this project which expires 9/30/13. Over the past five years, National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) tests were initiated, established, maintained and evaluated using standardized testing protocols. Data was collected across the U.S. and Canada by university researchers using standard procedures and formats. Data was submitted to NTEP, computer formatted, and statistically analyzed. Cultivars with superior disease, drought, heat and cold tolerance have been identified as well as cultivars with improved traffic tolerance. This information will be useful to turf managers in reducing pesticide and water and fertilizer use, thereby reducing environmental impact while maintaining the quality desired by users.

4. Accomplishments
1. Fineleaf fescue cultivars with improved traffic tolerance. Fineleaf fescue is known for its ability to perform well with less fertilizer and water and therefore, interest in using fine fescue on low input sites is increasing. However, reduced tolerance to traffic and compacted soils has limited the use of fine fescue in heavily used sites such as parks and golf courses. Damage to turf used on football fields, soccer pitches, baseball diamonds and parks is a significant problem for turf managers nationwide. As the demand for natural turf facilities increases, and the nation becomes increasingly urbanized, the need for turfgrasses that will tolerate excessive wear and tear is crucial. Three years of evaluations at two sites coordinated by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program in Beltsville, MD have identified fineleaf fescue cultivars with improved tolerance of traffic (wear and compaction). Having consistent, dense turf cover on playing fields and areas used for informal play is important to human health and safety, as well as to increase the environmental benefits that turf contributes, namely improving water quality, reducing erosion and decreasing pollution from runoff.

2. Tall fescues are evaluated for use in northern locations. Tall fescue is a species with deep roots and a high evapotransporation rate, which allows the species to draw water from deep in the soil profile and release this water through its leaves, cooling the plant under high ambient temperatures. For these reasons, tall fescue is a cool-season species that has been used for decades on lawns and parks in the warmer, more humid eastern and southeastern U.S. With the recent warmer-than-average temperatures in many areas of the U.S. and a need to reduce water used on turf areas, there is significant interest in using tall fescue in the northeastern and upper Midwestern U.S. Five years of tall fescue evaluations at ten northern U.S. sites by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program have shown that this species can perform well in states where tall fescue was not considered for use in the past. Tall fescue in these northern sites can stay green longer in summer, use less water, have less disease, and provide a good quality turf when compared to Kentucky bluegrass, the most commonly used grass in these areas.

3. Bermudagrasses are indentified with improved winter tolerance. Many central and northern U.S. locations have experienced warmer-than-average winters over the last 15 years. Bermudagrass is a warm-season species that uses less water than most other species, while providing superior traffic tolerance on golf course and athletic fields. However, bermudagrass lacks the winter tolerance found in many of the cool-season grass species used in much of the northern U.S. states. Over a five-year trial, the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program evaluated many new bermudagrass cultivars for their use across the U.S., and in particular in locations where winter temperatures can damage bermudagrass, limiting their use. These trials identified 10-12 cultivars and experimental selections with improved winter tolerance, potentially expanding the use of bermudagrass in central and northern U.S. sites.

4. Turf species show differences in salt tolerance. The use of recycled, low quality and/or saline irrigation water on golf courses, athletic fields and parks is required now in some regions of the U.S., and is being considered for use in many other areas as the amount of potable water available for turf irrigation is becoming limited. Researchers from the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program and ARS scientists in Beltsville, MD have evaluated the tolerance of turf cultivars to low quality/saline irrigation. A multi-year study demonstrated true statistical differences among cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, bermudagrass and zoysiagrass. This research shows that it can take 3-5 years, under controlled field conditions, to adequately test for differences in salt tolerance in turf species.

Last Modified: 06/28/2017
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