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Turfgrass Selection: Species and Cultivars

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Turfgrass species vary in terms of key attributes including appearance, appropriate uses, cultural requirements, pest resistance and stress tolerance. Individual cultivars (or varieties) within species provide additional options for effectively matching grasses with growing conditions, management level and desired performance. As such, the cultivars listed in this chapter exhibit above average turf forming properties compared to other cultivars.

Turfgrass selection decisions are among the most important that a turf manager makes, as poorly adapted species and cultivars are major causes of turf deterioration. Grasses well-matched to the growing environment require less input in terms of water, fertilizer, and management attention, and are far more likely to perform as intended and exhibit desired aesthetic characteristics.

Selection of adapted turfgrass species and cultivars is a fundamental exercise in any IPM program for turf. Adapted grasses are more resistant to stress and pest pressure and are therefore instrumental in reducing pesticide use to the lowest possible level.

How to use this section

The following are some commercially available turfgrass cultivars (varieties) which have performed well in Massachusetts or nationally based on National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) tests. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and there may be other reliable cultivars not evaluated by NTEP, or experimental cultivars that are not yet commercially available, that also perform well. For additional information visit the NTEP web site at http://www.ntep.org.

It is important to note that seed mixtures and blends are strongly preferred to monostands (planting of only one species and/or cultivar), as they produce a turf that works more effectively as a system.

  • A seed mixture is a combination of multiple, different turfgrass species.
  • A seed blend is a combination of multiple, different turfgrass cultivars within the same species. Therefore, a seed mixture can and often does include multiple blends.

When mixing and blending turfgrass species and cultivars, first consider the characteristics and adaptations of the individual turfgrass species and the site conditions such as soil type, cultural intensity and intensity of use, shade, and desired quality of the turf. It is also important to consider any past history of repeated damage from pests such as disease and insects.

First, select the best adapted species (Table 1) and mixture (Table 2) for the growing conditions and specific use, then select 2 or 3 cultivars within each species component from the preferred list for Massachusetts (Tables 3 to 8) that provide the best tolerance to commonly occurring diseases and other stresses.

Remember that regardless of careful turfgrass selection, the level of turf quality ultimately depends on the quality of management.


With regard to disease tolerance of individual cultivars, please note that the occurrence of favorable climatic conditions for disease varies from year to year. Disease ratings should be used to a) identify particularly susceptible cultivars that should be avoided in disease prone areas, or b) to choose disease tolerant cultivars for reseeding or overseeding an area previously damaged by disease. Proper cultural practices intended to reduce disease incidence are critical for cultivars to fully demonstrate disease tolerance. Disease may occur even in tolerant cultivars following exposure to favorable climatic conditions or improper cultural practices that promote disease.

Table 1. General characteristics of some major cool-season turfgrass species.

Characteristic Kentucky bluegrass Perennial ryegrass Creeping bentgrass Tall fescue Fine fescues
Growth habit rhizomatous bunch-type stoloniferous bunch various
Texture (leaf width) medium-fine to medium medium-fine to medium fine medium to coarse very fine
Soil type preferred well drained, moist, fertile moist, fertile well-drained, moist, fertile moist, fertile infertile, well drained
Tolerance to:          
Cold good poor to fair excellent fair good
Heat fair poor to fair fair to good excellent poor to fair
Drought good good poor excellent excellent
Salinity poor fair excellent good poor
Submersion fair fair excellent good poor
Wear fair excellent fair to good excellent poor
Compaction fair to good excellent fair to good fair poor
Shade poor poor fair to good fair to good excellent
Establishment slow fast medium medium to fast medium to fast
Recovery from injury excellent poor excellent poor poor *
Disease potential medium medium high low low to medium
Cultural requirements:          
Fertility medium to medium-high medium to medium-high high medium to medium-high low
Mowing Frequency low to medium high high medium-high low
Thatch potential medium low high low medium
* The capacity of creeping red fescues to recover from injury is considered fair due to rhizomatous growth habit.

Table 2. Guidelines for mixing and blending cool-season grasses for specific applications. The following are some general guidelines for effective mixtures and blends of cool-season turfgrasses for the Northeast. Read the appropriate row for the target use from left to right to determine the species percentages by weight and the suggested seeding rate range for each mixture. Refer to the footnotes for recommended blending parameters for varieties within species. Other mixture or blend options may exist based upon expectations and specific site and use conditions.

Use Turfgrass Species (% by weight) Seeding rate (lbs/1000ft2)
Kentucky bluegrass perennial ryegrass 1 fine fescues tall fescue 2 rough bluegrass creeping bentgrass
Athletic fields (new fields) 80% * 20% *         3 to 4
Athletic fields (new fields) 100% *           1 to 2
Athletic fields (overseeding key wear areas)   100% *         6 to 8 3
Golf course (putting greens)           100% ** 0.5 to 1
Golf course (fairways and tees)           100% * 0.5 to 1
Lawns - sun (med to high maintenance) 65-75% * 10-20% * 15% **       3 to 4
Lawns - sun (med to high maintenance) 20% *     80% *     6 to 8
Lawns - sun (med to high maintenance)   20% *   80% *     7 to 9
Lawns - sun (low maintenance) 5-25% * 10-20% * 65-75% *       4 to 6
Lawns - more sun than shade (well drained) 4 ≤15% *5 ≤15% *5 ≥70% *       4 to 6
Lawns - more shade than sun (well drained)   10-20% *5 80-90% *       4 to 6
Lawns - shade (wet) 30% *5       70% **6   2 to 3

* Two to three improved cultivars recommended
**One or more improved cultivars recommended
1 Perennial ryegrass content in mixes should not exceed 20% due to aggressive seedling growth.
2 Tall fescue is more readily adaptable to certain areas of New England, particularly the southern coastal areas.
3 Suggested rate when more than 50% of the area is bare soil.
4Use a minimum of 70% fine fescues and split the remainder with Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.
5 Select cultivars with improved shade tolerance for use on shaded sites whenever possible.
6 Use of rough bluegrass should be considered carefully because of the potential to become an undesirable weed.

SOIL TESTS
Soil samples should be taken at least four to six weeks before establishment of turf to allow sufficient time to fertilize and/or adjust pH based on soil test results. Take samples before fertilizing, or no sooner than four weeks after. To submit a representative sample, take about 12 samples, 4”-6” deep. Remove stones and debris, and do not include thatch. Mix all samples together, and spread the soil out on a clean surface to air dry. A one-cup measure of the mixture is all that is required for a soil test. For instructions on how to submit your sample, as well as information on available tests and fee structure, visit the UMass Soil Testing Lab at ag.umass.edu/services/soil-plant-nutrient-testing-laboratory. For information about plant problem diagnostics, refer to the UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab at ag.umass.edu/services/plant-diagnostics-laboratory.

KEY. Coding used to indicate disease and stress tolerances in Tables 3 through 8 for cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.

Un-shaded columns represent desirable traits; in these columns a ‘+’ denotes a positive effect and a ‘–‘ denotes a negative effect. For example, a ‘+’ in the ‘Anthracnose’ column indicates superior anthracnose tolerance, while a ‘-‘ in the ‘Wear Tolerance’ column indicates inferior tolerance to wear. Shaded columns represent undesirable traits; in these columns an ‘M’ denotes a negative effect and an ‘L’ denotes a positive effect. For example, an ‘M’ in the ‘Scalping Injury’ column indicates a cultivar more prone to scalping injury, while an ‘L’ in the ‘Seedhead Tendency’ column indicates a cultivar less likely to produce seedheads.
Code Code
+ Significantly above average M More prone to undesirable trait
- Significantly below average L Less prone to undesirable trait
  Average   Average

Table 3. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available bentgrass cultivars recommended for golf greens in Massachusetts.

Cultivar Species Anthracnose Brown patch Dollar spot Typhula (snow mold) Leaf spot Cutworm tolerance Green color Wear tolerance Scalping injury Thatch tendency

13-M

Creeping

 

 

 

 

 

+

-

-

L

L

Declaration

Creeping

+

 

-

 

 

+

 

-

M

 

Greenwich

Velvet

-

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

L

M

Legendary

Velvet

 

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

L

M

LS-44

Creeping

+

 

 

 

 

+

-

-

L

L

Memorial

Creeping

+

-

-

 

-

+

-

-

L

L

T-1

Creeping

+

 

+

 

-

+

 

-

 

L

Venus

Velvet

 

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

L

 

Vesper

Velvet

 

+

 

+

+

-

+

+

L

M

Villa

Velvet

+

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

L

M

Table 4. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available bentgrass cultivars recommended for golf fairways in Massachusetts.

Cultivar Species Anthracnose Brown patch Dollar spot Typhula (snow mold) Drought tolerance Green color Poa ingress Scalping injury

13-M

Creeping

-

+

 

 

+

+

L

 

Authority

Creeping

-

+

 

+

+

 

L

 

Bengal

Colonial

-

+

 

+

+

+

L

L

Crystal Bluelinks

Creeping

 

+

 

-

+

+

L

 

Declaration

Creeping

-

+

+

 

+

+

L

M

Independence

Creeping

-

+

-

+

 

+

L

 

Kingpin

Creeping

-

+

 

+

 

+

L

 

Mackenzie

Creeping

-

+

 

+

-

+

L

 

Penneagle II

Creeping

 

+

 

 

+

 

L

L

Shark

Creeping

 

+

-

+

 

 

L

 

T-1

Creeping

 

+

 

 

+

+

L

 

Tiger II

Colonial

 

-

+

+

 

-

 

L

Table 5. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available fine leaf fescue cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.

Cultivar Species Dollar spot Leaf spot Red thread Pythium blight Summer patch Drought tolerance Green color Poa ingress Seedhead tendency

 Epic

Creeping

+

+

+

+

+

+

 

 

M

Fortitude

Creeping

+

 

+

 

+

 

+

 

M

Jasper II

Creeping

-

-

 

 

+

 

+

 

M

Musica

Chewings

 

 

+

-

-

-

-

 

L

Pathfinder

Creeping

+

-

 

 

+

-

+

 

M

Reliant IV

Hard

+

+

+

+

+

+

 

 

M

Seabreeze

Creeping

 

 

-

+

+

 

 

 

M

Shoreline

Creeping

 

 

 

+

+

 

 

 

L

Spartan II

Hard

+

+

+

+

+

+

 

 

M

Wendy Jean

Creeping

+

-

+

+

+

 

 

L

M

Zodiac

Chewings

+

 

+

-

-

-

 

L

L

Table 6. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available tall fescue cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.

Cultivar Brown patch Leaf spot Leaf rust Drought tolerance Green color Leaf width

3rd Millennium

+

+

+

+

 

L

Bullseye

+

+

 

 

 

L

Firecracker LS

 

+

-

+

 

L

Firenza

+

+

 

+

 

L

Hemi

+

 

 

 

 

 

Jamboree

+

 

 

+

 

L

Rambler SRP

+

+

 

+

 

L

Raptor II

+

 

+

 

+

L

Speedway

+

+

 

+

 

L

Spyder LS

+

+

 

+

+

L

Turbo

+

 

-

+

 

L

Van Gogh

+

 

 

+

 

L

Table 7. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available Kentucky bluegrass cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.

Cultivar Dollar spot Leaf spot Red thread Summer patch Typhula (snow mold) Drought tolerance Green color Seedhead tendency

Blueberry

+

 

 

 

 

+

+

 

Bewitched

+

 

+

-

 

+

 

 

Argos

+

 

+

 

+

 

 

 

Everglade

+

 

+

+

 

 

 

 

Everest

+

 

+

+

 

+

 

L

Award

+

 

+

 

 

 

 

L

Nu Glade

+

 

+

+

 

 

 

L

Avid

+

+

 

-

+

+

 

L

Belissimo

+

 

+

 

 

+

 

M

America

+

 

+

 

+

+

 

M

Mystere

+

 

 

+

 

+

 

 

Diva

+

 

+

 

+

-

 

 

Table 8. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available perennial ryegrass cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.

Cultivar Brown patch Dollar spot Red thread Pythium blight Typhula (snow mold) Green color Wear tolerance Poa ingress Seedhead tendency

Allstar 3

+

 

 

 

 

 

 

L

 

Amazing GS

+

+

+

+

 

 

 

L

L

Attribute

+

+

 

+

 

+

 

 

L

Buena Vista

+

+

 

+

 

+

 

L

L

Cabo II

+

+

-

+

 

+

+

 

 

Charismatic II GLR

-

+

-

 

+

 

+

L

 

Citation Fore

+

-

+

+

+

 

 

L

 

Derby Xtreme

+

 

+

+

+

 

 

L

L

Fiesta 4

+

 

 

 

 

 

-

L

 

Keystone 2

+

 

+

+

+

 

+

L

 

Line Drive GLS

+

 

+

+

+

 

 

L

 

Manhattan 5

 

+

 

+

 

 

 

L

 

Panther GLS

+

+

 

+

 

 

 

L

L

RNS

+

 

 

+

-

 

 

L

L

Silver Dollar

+

+

+

+

+

+

 

 

L

SR 4600

+

 

+

+

-

 

+

L

 

Stellar GL

+

 

-

+

+

+