Aerial view of the TROE Center.

Increasing Low-Input Turfgrass Adoption Through Breeding, Innovation, and Public Education

Principal Investigator

Eric Watkins

Department and College

Department of Horticultural Science in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number


Funding Type

NIFA Grant, Non-Formula

Partnering States

  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon

Project Start and End Date

September 1, 2017-August 31, 2021

Project Summary

The public desires lower-input turfgrasses that provide functional turf areas while reducing inputs of water, fertilizer, mowing, and pesticides. We propose that the fine fescues, an important group of grasses well-suited to low-input environments, should be able to provide these types of turf areas. Surveys of consumer and public land managers suggest that having knowledge about the positive benefits of fine fescues is not enough to increase adoption.

The long-term goal of this project is to increase the use of well-adapted fine fescue cultivars in sustainable landscapes. In our first objective, we will survey consumers, land managers, and seed producers to identify the barriers preventing them from using fine fescues. In the second objective, we will lead a sustained effort of cultivar development focused on improving important traits utilizing new molecular technologies and proven breeding approaches. The third objective will generate new knowledge about complex interactions between turfgrass genetics and management. Our approach in the fourth objective will use 30 years of publically available data in an innovative way to improve consumer turfgrass purchasing decisions for improved fine fescue cultivars. Our fifth objective will identify solutions to several turfgrass management barriers that are preventing stakeholders from seeding fine fescues in landscapes and seed producers from growing this specialty crop. Finally, and most importantly, our sixth objective will deliver research-based information to consumers, seed producers, and land managers using new and innovative outreach methods. We will use plant breeding to improve low-input characteristics and increase the production and profitability of this specialty crop over the long-term.