Turfgrass Evaluations - 2001

Jerry Larson, Extension Agent/Stark-Billings County
Ron Smith, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University
James Nelson, Animal Scientist, Dickinson Research Extension Center


Turfgrass evaluation plots were established at the Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) in 1993. Initial studies evaluated individual varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass (KB), fescue grass, bentgrass and perennial ryegrass (PR).

Individual plots established in 1993 were terminated in 1997 because of invasion of grasses from adjacent plots, making evaluation difficult.

A lawn renovation project was established in 1998. This included individual grass varieties that were included in different turfgrass mixtures designed for a specific use. This project is still in place and continues to be evaluated.

The major objective of the turfgrass trial plots is to evaluate grass development under southwest North Dakota growing conditions. Evaluations are based on turf density, absence of weeds, texture, response to pests and pest control measures.

Materials & Methods

A lawn renovation project was initiated in 1997. A fall application of Roundup was applied to the plots. Additional treatments were made in the spring of 1998 for a total of three treatments. Because of this, grass planting was delayed until June 30.

Turfgrass plots are fertilized annually in the spring with a general purpose lawn fertilizer. Plots are watered regularly with an underground sprinkler system. Plots are mowed based on need and all clippings are collected and removed. Because of the turf density, weeds have not been a problem, and herbicides have not been used since the first year of establishment.

Turfgrass mixtures currently being evaluated include the following:

Individual varieties include:

Bonanza TF
Rebel Jr TF
Rebel II TF
Jamestown CF
Reliant HF
South Dakota Common KB
Parade KB
Glade KB
Touchdown KB
Ram I KB
1757 KB
Fairway CW

Results and Discussion

Turfgrasses have been evaluated annually since their establishment in 1998. During first year observations, stands were very similar, and there were no dramatic differences in evaluation scores. In 1999, highest rating mixtures were the Classic Choice blend, Challenger Mix I and Desert blends.

Results and Discussion (continued)

Top ranking turfgrasses in 2000 were: mixtures: Desert Blend and Country Blend; varieties: Ram I KB; Touchdown KB; and Bonanza TF.

Turf plots were evaluated on August 30, 2001, by Jerry Larson, Stark-Billings County Extension Agent; and Amy Dukart, DREC Horticulture Technician and Extension Intern.

General Observations

All Kentucky Bluegrass cultivars continue to perform well four years after establishment. Ram I received a 10 rating because of the advantage in turf density, dark green color, leaf texture and excellent overall vigor. South Dakota Common followed closely with a 9.5 evaluation score. This variety also has high vigor, fine leaf texture and very good turf density. This variety is the first grass to green up in the spring of the year, and the excellent dark green leaf color can be picked out in the plot from a distance. The third ranking variety was Touchdown. This high vigor cultivar has a place in athletic turf mixtures, because of an extremely dense turf and vigorous rhizamatous growth. The remaining bluegrass varieties received very similar ratings ranging from 7.5 to 8.0, and they deserve considerations to be included in southwestern North Dakota turfgrass mixtures. The one exception is 1757 KB, an older variety that I would not recommend.

The three Tall Fescue varieties have very similar plant characteristics--high vigor, dense turf, green color and coarse leaf texture. TF grasses appear to have some advantages during periods of heat and drought stress. These cultivars are highly recommended when low maintenance is an important consideration. Rebel Jr. TF appears to have a finer leaf than the other tall fescue varieties being evaluated.

The chewing and hard fescue grasses have a very fine leaf texture, a lighter green leaf color and are very vigorous. Fescue grasses add density to most turfgrass mixtures. Reliant HF and Jamestown II CF are becoming matted and twisted, especially when the grass gets taller between cuttings.

Fairway CW appears to be declining in vigor and turf density when compared to the other turf plots. The CW plot is being invaded by grasses from adjacent plots. Fairway greens up early in the spring with a light bluish-green leaf color. Crested wheatgrass is still highly recommended in low maintenance turfgrass mixtures.

Conclusion/Implications of Research

Incorporating different types of grasses in a mixture to meet a specific need/use is being adopted. Benefits in turf density, disease tolerance, weed pressure and other traits can be observed. This helps makes decisions in renovating or establishing new turf for area residents.

After four years of evaluation, it is evident that turfgrass can be formulated to perform best under specific situations. It is imperative to identify turfgrass objectives and other planting considerations (soil, maintenance requirements, availability of water, and many other factors) before planting. Objectives need to be realistic. You can't expect a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass to be low maintenance. On the other hand, Fairway CW and Bonanza TF are lower maintenance grasses but they don't look the same as Kentucky bluegrass.

The turfgrass plots located at the DREC continue to attract lots of public interest. It provides the opportunity to observe the different grass characteristics and performance under southwest North Dakota conditions. Plots have been observed by numerous homeowners, golf course representatives, parks & recreation district personnel, athletic turf caretakers, and other visitors.

Evaluations of turfgrass mixtures will continue because of the interest generated by the general public.