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Research Project: National Turfgrass Evaluation Program

Location: Floral and Nursery Plants Research

2022 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.

Progress Report
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.

1. Improved cultivar selection through database development. 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) grant to develop low input grasses, provided funds to develop turfgrass databases for fanleaf fescue. NTEP worked with the University of Minnesota to develop the structure, upload data for all turf species, test the user interface, and develop a smartphone app that locates the best cultivar for a homeowner based on their location, soil type, tree canopy situation and other factors. The NTEP database will be publicly available in July 2022, with development of tablet and smartphone apps underway.

2. Water use and drought tolerance of turfgrasses. 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 2022, nine locations provided data, with a few entries requiring only 50% of typical ETo irrigation replacement needed to maintain acceptable quality over an eight-week period. Water required to maintain 65% green cover under the rain exclusion shelters varied considerably, with the best entries only needing 2-10% of the water needed by the highest water using entries.