WERA11: Western Regional Turfgrass Research

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

WERA11: Western Regional Turfgrass Research

Duration: 10/01/2021 to 09/30/2026

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

From 1950 to 2000 the U.S. population increased by 141 million or 167% (2000 U.S. Census). During that same half-century, the Western region of the U.S. had a 360% population increase (growth from 11.9 million to 54.9 million), a substantially larger increase based on 1950 population size than what occurred in the Northeast, Midwest, or Southeast regions.  Projections suggest the U.S. population growth rate is slowing but should surpass 420 million by 2050.  Population growth drives expansion of urban areas, which, on a county level, are projected to increase from 3.1% to 8.1% of land area by 2050 (Nowak and Walton, 2005).

Turfgrass areas (including golf courses, athletic fields, home lawns, recreation areas, utility areas, roadside drainage ditches and more) are a central part of urban and suburban landscapes throughout the US. Currently, turfgrass occupies about 20 million ha in the US (Qian and Follett, 2002), and is expanding because of rapid urbanization (Robbins and Birkenholtz, 2003). Golf courses, lawns, and other recreation areas represent an important investment in urban and suburban landscapes in western states.

Due to biology, ecology, intensive management, and disturbances, turfgrass systems have specific and oftentimes unique management challenges compared to traditional cropping systems. A planning meeting of the current Western Regional Turfgrass Research (WERA11) committee identified four turfgrass research priority areas important for the region including pest management, water management, breeding and genetics, and extension education.

Appropriate and effective pest management programs help protect investment in urban landscapes and contribute positively to the economy. There are unique challenges for turfgrass pest management in western states. For example, the environmental conditions across the region create unique climatic conditions optimal for many weed, disease, and arthropod pests. Despite federal and state quarantine regulations, many new pest species have become established in western states in recent years (Howarth et al., 2013). In addition, the changing climate is resulting in some diseases becoming common in places where they were rare before. Pest management is further complicated by state and municipal mandates that specify strategies. Pest and nutrient management are critical for proper turfgrass maintenance. As with other agricultural industries, water is the most limiting factor for maintaining proper plant growth and health.  Western states are often challenged by water shortages that negatively impact proper growth and development of all plants including turf. Adoption of resilient turfgrasses that are pest and drought tolerant supports reduced management inputs. Turfgrass breeding programs have focused on improving turfgrass quality for more than 90 years, but there has been a recent shift in the last few decades to improve abiotic and biotic stress tolerance. The Pacific Northwest is the primary cool-season turfgrass seed production area in the world, creating a demand for turfgrass production research in the region.

 

In the western states there is a clear need for research to develop diverse and broadly compatible pest and turfgrass management strategies across turfgrass systems; optimize turfgrass management in water limiting environments; and develop new turfgrass cultivars that are more persistent, resistant to stress, and are regionally adapted. Research addressing these industry needs is valuable, but conveying that information to academic, industry, and professional and novice turfgrass managers is critical. While individual states have done excellent work producing online extension information (written bulletins and recorded presentations) and in-person extension presentations, sharing information between states and their associated entities (universities and governmental agencies) has been limited.

 

The WERA11 committee is comprised of faculty and staff at universities across the west. These members also work collaboratively with professionals in the turfgrass industry to address many of the challenges described above. Research is communicated to other researcher colleagues but more importantly to professional turfgrass managers and the general population through social media, trade and research journals, television programming, garden clubs, and regional turfgrass manager associations.  This research influences turfgrass management practices in resource limited environments. In addition, many of the recommendations made by the WERA11 committee are valuable beyond the western region and have been adopted both nationally and internationally. The WERA11 committee is uniquely positioned to address western regional turfgrass research opportunities. 

Objectives

  1. Develop turfgrass germplasm, cultivars, and genomic resources to enhance biotic and abiotic stress tolerance and adaptation to the western United States.
  2. Develop, refine and disseminate sustainable turfgrass management protocols for turfgrass managers throughout the western United States including the use of advanced technologies.
  3. Coordinate reduced water input in turfgrass systems by reducing water use, improving irrigation management, and evaluating the use of non-potable water sources for irrigation.
  4. Develop integrated pest management strategies to address new and established turfgrass pest issues.
  5. Coordinate turfgrass pest management extension education effort in western states, where common interest exists.
  6. Improve communication and collaboration between participating universities and federal government agencies.

Procedures and Activities

The majority of WERA11 committee members participate in National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (Morris, 2005) evaluation trials to rate regionally grown turfgrasses and provide performance evaluation data to the turfgrass community and turfgrass breeders. In the region, turfgrass breeding programs at AZ, CA, CO, NE, NM, OR, UT and WA develop new turfgrasses that are better equipped for the harsh environmental conditions of the western states. Most breeding programs in the region focus on enhanced stress tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses such as salinity, drought, and fungal and insect pests. Turfgrass breeders in the region also evaluate alternative species that are native to the region or regionally adapted and have innate stress tolerance compared with traditional turfgrass species such as buffalograss, saltgrass, blue grama, junegrass, tufted hairgrass, wheatgrasses, and highland bentgrass.

WERA11 members work cooperatively to identify emergent and established pests and coordinate research efforts to address these pest challenges. WERA11 members in AZ, CA, CO, HI, NE, and OR are conducting disease evaluation and management research. Similarly, arthropod pests such as billbugs (Sphenophorus spp.) and armyworm are of growing concern in the region. Research on arthropod pests is being conducted in CO, HI, ID, OR, and UT. Weeds are a severe problem throughout the region and all WERA11 members are conducting research on regionally and nationally important weed species. These coordinated efforts by WERA11 researchers help determine factors leading to pest outbreaks, evaluate management practices to mitigate pest pressure, and develop management strategies that incorporate broadly across diverse turf systems. Effective turfgrass pest management strategies will be shared with turf and landscape stakeholders. When common pest interests are identified among western states, joint extension efforts will be coordinated.

Water shortages are common in the western United States and supplemental irrigation is often implemented to maintain plant health. There have been several technological advancements in several areas of turfgrass management including irrigation systems that positively impact and minimize water use.  Further research is conducted to understand how management practices impact water use including the testing of new technologies; evaluation of alternative irrigation practices, including delivery methods and alternate sources of water; conducting irrigation audits; promoting drought tolerant species; evaluating performance of turfgrasses under poor quality irrigation; and understanding how soil health impacts turfgrass performance and water use. WERA11 committee members in AZ, CA, CO, NE, NM, NV, TX, UT, and WA conduct research under water-limiting conditions, a common abiotic stress in those states. In coastal states and in other regions where groundwater is contaminated by salts, salinity stress is common.  Researchers are evaluating managed turfgrass when exposed to salinity stress 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, and NV.

There is a need to improve extension collaboration between states and to revise how extension and research information is shared.  This will be done by updating the annual written program report template and developing a video program report template.  Annually, new extension bulletins and scientific publications from participating primary investigators will be collected.  The WERA11 group will also develop a comprehensive collaborator list with contact information and research interests.  The reports (written and video), recent extension publications and scientific publications, and collaborator contact information will be posted on a new WERA11 website which will be within the Oregon State University Turfgrass Website (https://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/beaverturf). In addition, scientific (research or extension activity based) abstracts and short presentations of preliminary data, new projects or novel research/extension directions and ideas will be presented at the annual meeting.  Each primary investigator will be allotted 10 minutes for a research abstract and presentation of their choice at the annual meeting.  These research abstracts and presentations will be in addition to the annual program reports, which are intended to be a comprehensive presentation of program material.  Research abstracts and recorded research presentations will also be available within the WERA11 website.    

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Implement cooperative research to address broader regional research goals such as water quality and conservation.
  • Enhance educational opportunities to increase awareness of optimal turfgrass management practices, reduced-input management strategies, and new technologies.
  • Meet annually to coordinate research and extension efforts throughout the region, identify specific regional issues such as emergent pest problems.
  • Develop a new WERA11 website to house participating university and governmental agency annual written reports, annual video reports, recent extension bulletins, recent scientific publications, and a list of collaborators with contact information.
  • Coordinate turfgrass pest management extension education effort in western states.
  • Coordinate regional germplasm and cultivar evaluations to enhance regional impact of new turfgrasses.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

A new WERA11 website which will be within the Oregon State University Turfgrass Website (https://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/beaverturf) will be developed.  WERA11 committee members will publish research and educational videos, extension and research reports to the site.

WERA11 will continue to promote the use of best management practices and IPM approaches 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 NIMSS and Oregon State University Turfgrass Website WERA11 web pages, and participation in state turf conferences and other relevant seminars and workshops.

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

Organization/Governance

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

Howarth, F. G., B. R. Kumashiro and J. N. Matsunaga.  2013.  Pathway analysis and dissemination of new insect and plant disease records in Hawaii Final Report FY 2011.  USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine and Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture Cooperative Agreement no. 11-8510-1485-CA.

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

David J. Nowak, Jeffrey T. Walton, Projected Urban Growth (2000–2050) and Its Estimated Impact on the US Forest Resource, Journal of Forestry, Volume 103, Issue 8, December 2005, Pages 383–389, https://doi.org/10.1093/jof/103.8.383

Qian, Y., and R.F. Follett. 2002. Assessing soil carbon sequestration in turfgrass systems using long-term soil testing data. Agron. Journal, 94: 930–935.

Robbins, P., and T. Birkenholtz. 2003. Turfgrass revolution: measuring the expansion of the American lawn. Land Use Policy, 20: 181–194.

Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

AZ, HI, IA, NE, OR, UT, WA

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Brigham Young University, Texas Tech University
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