Monday, November 12, 2007

Turf - Some Traits Being Bred Into Tall Fescue

There is a lot of breeding work going on with turf type tall fescue. The following is an article on two traits being worked on.

Rhizome activity in tall fescue is not equivalent to that in Kentucky bluegrass, yet there is a spreading characteristic present in tall fescue that breeders are working to enhance.

There are two varieties that are being aggressively marketed as having rhizomes: Labrynth and Grande II. Of these two, Grande II has the best turf quality - I would recommend this one. Labrynth isn’t attractive (very coarse textured, poor density, and yellow-green color). And accordingly Labrynth is being sold in blends or mixes with better looking varieties to mask this appearance while Labrynth provides the sod knitting ability. These blends and mixtures with Labrynth would be the only way I would recommend using Labrynth, but realize that the turf quality of Labrynth will not be totally masked and could be a negative to many property owners.

Some anecdotal evidence suggest that the variety Titan Ltd. has good spreading and sod knitting ability, presumably by rhizomes. The breeding program at Rutgers is working diligently on improving this trait in tall fescue. So it is fair to say that you will be hearing more on this issue in the coming years. And I am optimistic that this characteristic will be prevalent in more varieties in the near future.

Cold weather (winter) performance is another trait that is being worked on. This improvement would a great boost to the sports turf industry, since winter is a period of downtime for fields. Current varieties are too slow growing during the mild weather of winter; improvement of winter vigor could enable turf managers to achieve some degree of recovery during winter and early spring that is currently not possible.

Extracted from an article by James Murphy, Ph.D., Specialist in Turf Management, Rutgers University in the April 6, 2006 edition of the Plant and Pest Advisory, Landscape, Nursery, and Turf edition.

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