WERA11: Western Regional Turfgrass Research

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

WERA11: Western Regional Turfgrass Research

Duration: 10/01/2016 to 09/30/2021

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Urbanization is a global trend impacting all sectors of modern agriculture. Managed turfgrass areas including home lawns, commercial landscapes, parks, golf courses, recreational facilities, and other greenbelts are growing at rates comparable to urban growth. Throughout the western United States water shortages are common and supplemental irrigation is often required to support normal plant growth and development. In the turfgrass industry, the challenges associated with limited water is compounded by the continued growth in turf acreage accompanying western urbanization, presenting a clear demand for research, education, and outreach on turfgrass water use and management.

In water limiting environments, salinity levels, pests, adapted turfgrass cultivars, and management practices differ vastly compared to other regions of the country that naturally have more available water. In addition to these challenges, the Pacific Northwest produces the majority of cool-season turfgrass seed used by the industry. Together these factors make the western region of the United States one of the most important to the turfgrass industry.

The western region is serviced by members of the WERA011 (formerly WRCC-11) committee. The committee strives to identify and pursue research, education, and outreach activities important for producing and managing turfgrass in the western United States. The committee identifies current and future research to address drought tolerance, water management, salinity tolerance, integrated pest management, new turfgrass cultivars evaluation and development, and low-input turfgrass management. The committee works cooperatively to address regional challenges and communicate research findings. Open dialog is valued among the committee members to identify current research needs, develop cooperative research projects, and avoid redundancy in research.

The committee is comprised of members with diverse specialties including low-input turfgrass management, drought and salinity stress physiology, breeding and genetics, turfgrass production, entomology, weed science, plant pathology, and integrated pest management. The committee is primed to address the needs of the western states and has been successful at coordinating timely and relevant research across these varied disciplines.

The WERA011 has taken an active role communicating research findings. During the final reporting year of the prior WERA011 project alone, project members produced 43 manuscripts, books, and peer reviewed extension publications; delivered local and state field days, conferences, and integrated pest management and turf schools to provide continuing education to other turfgrass industry professionals; hosted Master Gardeners, garden clubs, and television shows to educate non-trained turfgrass managers (the average homeowner); and delivered focused seminars spanning pest control and proper integrated turfgrass management to water conservation.  These outreach activities have positively influenced behavior in the region and have provided essential tools for improving turfgrass management in resource limiting environments throughout the industry, both nationally and internationally.

The project objectives are broadly written to be flexible enough to address the rapidly changing needs of the turfgrass industry and specific enough to target research and outreach activities important for western states. The objectives are similar to those of the previous WERA011 project.


  1. Develop improved turfgrass cultivars resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses important to the western states and identify genetic components conferring drought resistance and salinity tolerance to improve the efficiency of stress resistant germplasm identification and selection.
  2. Exchange information on features and importance of newly developed cultivars and coordinate research to develop and evaluate optimal low-input management practices.
  3. Develop, refine and disseminate sustainable turfgrass management protocols for turfgrass managers throughout the western United States
  4. Coordinate reduced input turfgrass management practices
    Comments: a. Reduce turfgrass water use and improve irrigation management practices b. Evaluate the use of non-potable water sources. c. Identify germplasm and management practices to reduce salinity stress d. Coordinate research on nutrient and pesticide fate e. Develop integrated pest management strategies to address new and emergent pest issues. f. Evaluate the use of turfgrasses for bioremediation of contaminated soils
  5. Assess environmental impacts of turf management
  6. Communicate research results and promote sustainable practices to the public through workshops, conferences, websites, extension publications, social media, and research publications
    Comments: WERA011 is beginning to evaluate the feasibility of joint education delivery to broaden educational opportunities throughout the region, taking advantage of regional expertise.

Procedures and Activities

Turfgrass breeding is principally done in TX, NE, AZ, CO, UT, CA, and NM to identify, evaluate, and develop turfgrasses that have sufficient quality but are better equipped to tolerate the harsh environmental conditions of the western states. The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) coordinates multi-year regional germplasm and cultivar evaluation trials. WERA011 members host NTEP tests of species important to the region. Cultivar adaptations and best management practices (mowing, optimal water requirements, fertility, and pest control) are tested in all states under diverse environmental conditions. Additionally, information is used from these regional tests to direct future breeding objectives. For example salinity tolerance, drought tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, and fungal and insect pest resistance are at the forefront of most breeding programs as a direct result of regional performance data and turfgrass manager preference. Current emphasis has also been placed on developing quality native or naturalized grass species that already have exceptional stress resistance, such as buffalograss, saltgrass, bluegrama, and selected wheatgrasses. Research continues in the region to develop improved biotic and abiotic stress resistance in new cultivars

The environmental conditions across the western states, creates unique climatic conditions optimal for certain weed, disease, and insect pests. WERA011 members work cooperatively to quickly identify emergent pests and coordinate research efforts to address those pest challenges. Disease issues such as rapid blight (Labyrinthula terrestris) is an example of a cool-season turfgrass disease that is becoming more problematic due to changes in water quality and quantity in the western U.S.WERA011 members (AZ, CA, CO, HI, NE) are conducting disease evaluation and management research. Similarly insect pests, such as Billbugs (Sphenophorus parvulus) are of growing concern in the region for similar reasons. Research on insect pests is being conducted in CO, HI, ID, and WA. Weed pressure continues to be a problem throughout the region and several WERA011 members (AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, NM, NE, OR, UT, WA) are conducting research on regionally and nationally important weed species. These coordinated efforts by researchers will help to develop models for predicting pest outbreaks and management practices to mitigate pest pressure.

Appropriate water management is critical to the region. Research is targeted to test alternative irrigation practices, including delivery methods and alternate sources of water, conduct irrigation audits, develop drought tolerant species, and evaluate performance of turfgrasses under poor quality irrigation. The states of AZ, CA, CO, NE, NM, NV, TX, UT, and WA routinely experience drought and WERA011 members in this region are conducting research under water-limiting conditions. Salinity is a problem for many coastal states and other parts of the region where ground water is contaminated with salts. The impact of salinity stress on managed turfgrass is being evaluated in AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, and TX. Alternative irrigation strategies are being tested in CO, NM, and UT and reclaimed water is being evaluated for its ability to sustain a healthy turf stand in AZ, CA, CO, Guam, and NV.

Efficacy trials are done to test new pesticide chemistries, evaluate safety and regional efficacy on pest targets throughout the western states. Nutrient and pesticide fate research is being conducted in CA and WA.

During WERA011 annual meetings, regional turf conferences and field days, at national research meetings, and via personal communications, WERA011 members cooperatively determine if emergent issues are of local, regional, or national scope.  The information is used to guide education, extension, and research programming at an appropriate scale and to address those topical issues.  

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Meet annually to coordinate research and extension efforts throughout the region, identify specific regional issues such as emergent pest problems.
  • Work cooperatively to address broader regional research goals such as water quality and conservation.
  • Meet once every 4 years with the NCERA 192 group to discuss and exchange areas of common research, education and Extension interest.
  • Communicate research and extension activities to broaden educational opportunities for researchers, turfgrass managers, and other constituents in the region.
  • Publish research results in a timely fashion and share results broadly with the turfgrass industry at research meetings and via social media.
  • Increase education opportunities to increase awareness and provide the optimal reduced-input management practices
  • Coordinate regional NTEP trials of species important to the western states.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Promote the use of BMPs and better-adapted turf species and cultivars using: mass media, field days, Extension bulletins, Master Gardener Programs, State Pesticide Applicator Training, cross-linking web pages between states, providing links and information on the WERA011 web page, and participation in state turf conferences.

A WERA011 website will be developed (as part of the Colorado State University Turfgrass website) to provide a clearinghouse for links to member institutions and sources of research-based information.

Participation in professional scientific meetings (ASA, SSSA, CSSA, APS, ESA, WSSA).


The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities include the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Literature Cited

Anon. 2005a. Landscaping / turf sector. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/PESP/publications/vol6se/IIA4h-landsc-turf.htm

Milesi, C., C.D. Elvidge, J.B. Dietz, B.J. Tuttle, R.R. Nemani, and S.W. Running. 2005. Mapping and modeling the biogeochemical cycling of turf grasses in the United States. Environmental Management. Online First. DOI: 10.1007/s00267-004-0316-2.

Morris, K. 2005. The national turfgrass research initiative. National Turfgrass Federation. www.ntep.org/pdf/turfinitiative.pdf

United States Geological Survey. Water Use in the United States. http://water.usgs.gov/watuse/


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Texas Tech University, USDA-ARS/Arizona, Utah
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