U of M-led project could mean improved grass options for homeowners, public spaces
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (10/04/2012) —A new research project led by University of Minnesota scientists could lead to sustainable, drought- and wear-resistant turf grasses that could be used in both home lawns and public green spaces.
The 5-year project is funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is part of a national research effort to improve specialty crops. Researchers hope to develop new grass cultivars that would require less water, fertilizer, pesticide and mowing and to explore ways to share the ecological and economic benefits of the new grasses with homeowners, landscapers and public land managers.
“The fine fescues provide many characteristics that most people would want in a lawn grass—they don’t need to be mowed very often, they don’t use a lot of water, and they are very tolerant of shade,” says Eric Watkins, an associate professor of horticultural science at the university and the project’s lead investigator. “Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find these grasses at local retailers. This project will lead to the development of new varieties of these grasses that are well-adapted to adverse conditions and more available to consumers.”
The project includes four objectives:
- Exploring barriers to use of low-input grasses in public spaces and whether policy makers could play a role in persuading consumers to use different grasses on their lawns;
- Evaluating homeowners’ grass seed buying patterns and preferences;
- Breeding new varieties of fine fescue that withstand wear, heat and disease; and
- Educating the public about the benefits of the new grasses.
Along with Watkins’ team at the University of Minnesota, scientists from Rutgers University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison also are involved in the project.