Currently, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are the two primary species used for turf in the northern United States. These species provide a high quality turf when managed with sufficient inputs; however, there has been increasing attention drawn to the negative aspects of higher input turfs, including the excessive use of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides.
The fine fescues – strong creeping red fescue, slender creeping red fescue, Chewings fescue, hard fescue, and sheep fescue – can be a solution to these challenges. Fine fescues are species of turfgrass that need less water, mowing, and fertilizer. These traits make the fine fescues a sustainable alternative to some of the traditionally used turfgrasses.
The next challenge is to identify ways to facilitate adoption of these fine fescues on private and public landscapes. Our team recently received a $5.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to discover what is stopping homeowners from using fine fescues and how new varieties can be bred to overcome those obstacles. Our transdisciplinary approach will address social, marketing, technological, landscape management, and genetic barriers.
This project is a joint venture by participants from the University of Minnesota, Rutgers University, Purdue University, Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin and the USDA-ARS. It is funded by the USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI).