Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/2/2014
Publication Date: 1/15/2015
Citation: Staub, J.E., Robbins, M.D. 2015. Evaluation of fine fescue grasses identifies resources for improved ecological function under rangeland stress environments. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts.
Technical Abstract: Fine-leaved fescue (Festuca ssp.) grasses have potential for contributing to increased rangeland productivity given their comparatively high drought and heat tolerance. Therefore, plant performance trials were developed to evaluate geographically diverse fine fescue materials for their application to U.S. western rangelands. Plant materials from U.S., Middle Eastern, and Asian sources were visually evaluated in a field nursery in North Logan, UT, and selections were made in 2009 based on plant vigor, biomass, and color. These selections were crossed in 2010 under controlled conditions as bi-parental matings (populations). Plants from 37 of these populations were transplanted with six commercial checks into replicated trials in 2011 at three locations (Malta, ID, Blue Creek, UT, and North Logan, UT) with a range of annual precipitation (200 mm, 350 mm, and 450 mm, respectively). Plants were evaluated for color (spring green-up), vigor, persistence, and biomass over two years (2012-2013). When considering all traits over both years, four populations with parents originating from Turkey (F. ovina), Iran (F. ovina), Russia (F. valesiaca), and the U.S. (F. ovina) performed substantially better than 'Durar', the best performing commercial check, and 'Covar' depending on location. In the harshest (lowest precipitation) environment, the average performance of these four populations compared to 'Durar' was 155-177% for vigor, 78-89% for color, 208-385% for biomass, and 91-114% for persistence. These populations may be more suitable than 'Covar' and 'Durar' for forage production and rangeland reclamation in arid environments of the western U.S.