Researchers identify new grasses for low-input golf course turf

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Washington, April 21 (ANI): Researchers have identified four alternative turfgrasses that show potential for use on golf course fairways.

The two bentgrasses and two fescues offer sustainable strategies for low-input turf.

In the cool-season region of the US, golf course managers traditionally grow creeping bentgrass on putting greens and favour Kentucky bluegrass, creeping bentgrass, or perennial ryegrass for fairways.

When used on fairways, however, these species require significant amounts of inputs such as nitrogen fertilization, irrigation, and pesticides.

A sustainable, effective strategy to deal with potential risks associated with these inputs may be the use of alternative turfgrass species.

The challenge is finding low-input turf that can survive and perform adequately under conditions of little or no supplemental irrigation, high traffic, no pesticides, and reduced fertility.

Eric Watkins, Andrew B. Hollman, and Brian P. Horgan of the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota designed a research study that tested alternative turfgrass species not currently used for golf course fairways in the northern US.

In 2005, 17 species of turfgrass were established on native soil in St. Paul.

Each species was evaluated at three levels of traffic (zero, three, or six passes per week using a drum-type traffic simulator) and two mowing heights (1.90 and 2.54 cm).

In 2006, velvet bentgrass (Agrostis canina L.), colonial bentgrass (Agrostis capillaris L.), and creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) maintained acceptable quality in all treatment combinations.

In 2007, Chewings fescue (Festuca rubra L. ssp. fallax) and sheep fescue (Festuca ovina L.) were the top-performing species regardless of treatment.

Hard fescue (Festuca brevipila Tracey) performed poorly the first year of the study, but performed well in the second year.

The other species evaluated in the study did not perform at acceptable levels.

The test results indicated that sheep fescue, Chewings fescue, colonial bentgrass, and velvet bentgrass should be studied further for use on low-input golf course fairways in the northern US.

Watkins said: "In this study, the fine fescue species showed the greatest potential for use on low-input golf course fairways. To our knowledge, this is the first report of sheep fescue being a successful fairway turf in the United States."

The research shows that alternative cool-season turfgrass species may be able to perform adequately on golf course fairways under low-input conditions in Minnesota and similar areas.

The research has appeared in HortScience. (ANI)

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