Turfgrass evaluation of native grasses
Mintenko, Anthony Scott
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There is increasing public pressure on the turfgrass industry to reduce maintenance inputs. Grasses native to North America seem perfect candidates for low-maintenance turfgrass as they have evolved under the environmental extremes of North America. The objectives of this research were to identify native grass species suitable for use in drought, saline and low-maintenance conditions. Fifteen native grass species for a total of 31 entries were evaluated: alpine bluegrass ('Poa alpina' L.), alkali grass (' Puccinellia nuttaliana' [Schultes] Hitchc.), blue grama (' Bouteloua gracilis' [Willd. ex kunth] Lag. ex Griffiths), buffalograss ('Buchloe dactyloides' [Nutt.] Engelm.), Canada bluegrass (' Poa compressa' L.), fescue spp., fowl bluegrass ('Poa palustris ' L.), Idaho bentgrass ('Agrostis iddaensis'), inland desert saltgrass ('Distichlis stricta' [Torr.] Rydb.), marsh muhly ('Muhlenbergia racemose' [Michx.] B.S.P.), prairie junegrass ('Koeleria macrantha' [Ledeb.] LA. Schultes), rough hairgrass ('Agrostis scabra' Willd.), side-oats grama ('Bouteloua curtipendula' [Michx.] Torr.), sweetgrass ('Hierchloe odorata ' [L] Beauv.) and tufted hairgrass ('Deschampsia caespitosa ' [L.] Beauv.). The entries with high quality ratings for low-maintenance turf use were: Minnesota ecotype blue grama, 'Bismarck' and 'Sharp's Imp. II' buffalograss, inland desert saltgrass, 'Bad River' blue grama, 'Barkoel' prairie junegrass and 'Golfstar' Idaho bentgrass. The last four were also moderately tolerant of saline soil conditions. The warm season grasses entries blue grama and buffalograss were extremely drought tolerant, maintaining consistent green colour. Most entries will require a breeding and selection program before being released to the public for low-maintenance turfgrass use. This research provides useful information on a number of native grass species suitable as low-maintenance turf and the relevant drought and saline tolerance of many native grass species.