The turfgrass industry will continue to experience change, due, in part, to the state of the economy. For example, a slowdown in the housing market could result in less need for turfgrass seed and sod (Barberry, 2006) and in the construction of fewer golf courses (Koppenhaver, 2007). Change also may occur as concerns regarding the resource demands and ecological impact of turfgrasses in general are addressed (Batik, 2000). Issues include the use of scarce water resources for irrigation (Hull, 1996; Mullins, 2007), the prevention of water pollution when managing turf (Klein, 1990; Stier and Kussow, 2007; Sonoda and Yeakley, 2007), and the role of turfgrasses in C sequestration (Molnar et al., 2007; Beard, 2001; Qian and Follett, 2002). Emphasis on protecting the environment through best management practices (see Chapter 28) is expected to increase (Seagle, 2001).


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Fig. 26-19. Selected improved tall fescue turf cultivar plants, SR8200 and 'Rebel II', in a breeding nursery field. (Photo by T. Samples.)


Innovative tall fescue cultivars will continue to be introduced into the marketplace. The development of a new tall fescue cultivar with significantly improved high temperature and drought tolerance, superior water-use efficiency, less susceptibility to disease, better insect resistance, or a reduced fertility requirement may result from a modification of selection characteristics within a conventional breeding program or the discovery of unique germplasm and the integration of this uniqueness into an existing cultivar (Brilman, 2005) (Fig. 26-19). Individual cultivars may be developed for, and marketed within, a specific region rather than for the entire country (Brede, 2003).

The adoption of transgenic biotechnology and the development of transgenic cultivars by laboratory gene insertion may be slower for turf than for agronomic crops (Brede, 2004). Presently, transgenic turfgrass cultivars are regulated much like pesticides and are subject to federal testing and approval, thereby increasing development costs. Recently, at North Carolina State University, tall fescue transformation efforts for improved disease resistance were successful (Dong et al., 2007). Researchers demonstrated that the bacteriophage T4 lysozyme gene confers resistance to both gray leaf spot and brown patch diseases in transgenic tall fescue plants.

Plant breeding, genetics, and cytology influence and improve lives as part of the Evergreen Revolution (Baenziger et al., 2006). Improved tall fescues continue to be developed for use as turf in the United States, as evidenced by the release of 15 new cultivars in 2007 (Funk et al., 2007). In addition to the retail cost of seed and sod, the acceptance and success of these new cultivars in the marketplace will depend on their quality, disease and insect resistance, cold, drought and heat tolerance, and fertility and water use requirements.


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