Fine Fescue Demo Sites

  • A low-maintenance fine fescue demonstration at the University of Minnesota.

Investigating public land manager benefits and barriers to implementation of fine fescue lawns on public and larger institutional private lands

Project Lead - Dr. Kristen Nelson

Our team will collaborate with College and University Sustainability Offices and Facilities Management Offices across the northern U.S. to develop experimental plots designed to allow participants to evaluate the social, economic, and environmental barriers and benefits of transitioning to fine fescue lawns. Higher education institutions are an excellent venue for engaging a range of consumers in discussions about alternative futures. Public and private landowners participate in these institutions as students, staff, alumni, parents, and service providers visit or work at these sites, often for conferences about innovation and critical issues society is confronting. The benefit for participating organizations is that they could use the site for additional instructional or research purposes as well as to inform future land management decisions.

Sustainability Programs have taken on an active role in making their campuses living/learning laboratories for students, staff, and the broader community. Many campuses have multi-use turfgrass areas similar to traditional public lands such as parks, municipal building grounds, etc. This component of our research, focused on implementation and evaluation of the fescue plots, will provide extensive data regarding transition barriers and benefits before, during, and after conversion to fine fescue.

We will request of cooperators that sites be selected that are currently dominated by Kentucky bluegrass and/or perennial ryegrass growing either in sun or a mix of sun and shade. Typical establishment practices for each campus grounds will be followed. Additionally, we will provide professionally-created signs to direct passers-by to more information about fine fescues. This feature will also allow us to survey the public about the demonstration plots. Establishment and upkeep of the site would be the responsibility of landcare/facilities at each location.

Before implementation, we will survey the college officials and professionals (e.g. sustainability staff, facilities land managers) regarding their perceptions about the barriers and benefits of a transition to fine fescues. After the first year, they will be surveyed again based on the initial conversion experience. In addition, the Sustainability Office will be encouraged to host a focus group of a cross section of college stakeholders to do an institutional analysis of the primary barriers and benefits of a broader program for conversion of turfgrass areas. Finally, on select campuses, we will host focus groups for municipal public land managers and landscape companies to examine the primary barriers to conversion (e.g. evidence of new trait benefits, conversion timeline, seed availability).