Location: Floral and Nursery Plants Research2020 Annual Report
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.
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.
Over the past year, 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. NTEP is also working collaboratively to develop databases to improve the selection of turf cultivars. NTEP has collected data on tens of thousands of experimental and commercially available turfgrasses, encompassing twenty species across multiple locations in the U.S. and Canada since 1981. This data has been assembled, reviewed for accuracy, statistically analyzed and reported via electronic and print media, as well as the NTEP web site in tables comparing entries and locations. However, a database was never developed to house the nearly one million data records collected. A recent USDA, Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) funded grant to develop low input grasses, includes turfgrass database development for fineleaf fescue as an objective. NTEP is working with the University of Minnesota, one of the multiple universities cooperating on the grant, to develop this database and help homeowners and professionals utilize NTEP data to make better cultivar decisions. A database structure was first developed by university computer science researchers. Next, via separate funding from NTEP, all NTEP data, for all species (996,000 data records) was provided to computer scientists involved in the grant. The sorting and display of data is now being addressed, resulting in the initiation of a homeowner smartphone application that easily locates the best cultivar for a homeowner based on their location, soil type, tree canopy situation and other factors. NTEP is also interested in database access and use by turfgrass managers, seed companies and breeders, therefore development of web and smartphone applications that display data useful to scientists, professionals and sales personnel is underway. Water use on turfgrass is being scrutinized across the U.S. as periodic droughts or water shortages put pressure on potable water supplies. In 2016, NTEP developed a multi-site trial to measure the amount of water needed to keep cool-season grasses green and growing during a 100-day drought, or under reduced irrigation. Five locations in this 35-entry trial included rain exclusion shelters in the eastern U.S. (where periodic, ‘acute’ droughts are common) and five locations in the western U.S. utilized three levels of reduced potential evapotranspiration (ETo). In 2019, data from rain-exclusion trials in the Mid-Atlantic (College Park, MD) and Midwest (West Lafayette, IN) had much greater statistical significance than other sites, with tall fescues generally maintaining green cover with less water than Kentucky Bluegrasses. Western locations with less summer stress showed some entries with acceptable turfgrass quality under the 40% ETo replacement level. The results of these trials will help guide decisions in turfgrass selection based on water input in diverse environments.