Turfgrass species vary in terms of key attributes including appearance, appropriate uses, cultural requirements, pest resistance and stress tolerance. Individual cultivars (also called varieties) within species provide additional options for effectively matching grasses with growing conditions, the level of cultural intensity, 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 plant material (species and cultivars) is very often a central cause of turf deterioration. Compared with poorly adapted grasses, grasses well-matched to the growing environment most often require reduced inputs 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.
|Turfgrass trial explorer|
|Turfgrass Trial Explorer (https://maps.umn.edu/ntep/) is a new search tool that is linked to 40+ years of data collected by NTEP and its university cooperators. The tool allows any user to quickly access and locate turf quality information as well as other traits needed to make decisions on turfgrass cultivars. It is very user friendly and free! Individuals (professional and consumer) are encouraged to use this new search tool, however, basic guidelines should be followed to ensure reliable cultivar selections... see those guidelines and other useful information on proper cultivar selection in our "Does Selecting the Best Turfgrass Varieties Really Matter?" fact sheet (https://ag.umass.edu/turf/fact-sheets/does-selecting-best-turfgrass-varieties-really-matter).|
It is also 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 selection, turfgrasses require management in order to realize their genetic potential, therefore the level of turf quality ultimately depends on the quality of management.
With regard to disease resistance 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 resistant 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|
|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|
|Cold||good||poor to fair||excellent||fair||good|
|Heat||fair||poor to fair||fair to good||excellent||poor to fair|
|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|
|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|
|* 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
|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/diagnostics.|
KEY. Coding used to indicate disease and stress tolerances in Tables 3 through 8 for cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.
|Blue columns represent biotic stress resistance; in these columns a ‘+’ denotes a positive effect and a ‘–‘ denotes a negative effect. For example, a ‘+’ in the ‘Anthracnose’ column indicates superior anthracnose resistance, while a ‘-‘ in the ‘Cutworms’ column indicates inferior cutworm resistance.||Yellow columns represent abiotic stress resistance; in these columns a ‘+’ denotes a positive effect and a ‘–‘ denotes a negative effect. For example, a ‘+’ in the ‘Wear’ column indicates superior wear resistance, while a ‘-‘ in the ‘Drought’ column indicates inferior drought resistance.||Green columns represent positive plant traits; in these columns a ‘+’ denotes a positive effect and a ‘–‘ denotes a negative effect. For example, a ‘+’ in the ‘Green Color’ column indicates darker color, while a ‘-‘ in the ‘Leaf Texture’ column indicates coarser leaf texture.||Gray columns represent undesirable plant traits; in these columns an ‘H’ denotes a negative effect and an ‘L’ denotes a positive effect. For example, an ‘H’ in the ‘Thatch Tendency’ column indicates a cultivar more prone to thatch development, while an ‘L’ in the ‘Seedhead Tendency’ column indicates that a cultivar less likely to produce seedheads.|
|+||Significantly above average||+||Significantly above average||+||Significantly above average||H||High tendency for undesirable trait|
|-||Significantly below average||-||Significantly below average||-||Significantly below average||L||Low tendency for undesirable trait|
|A blank cell indicates that there is no data available for a given species and cultivar for the subject trait.|
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||Cutworms||WEAR||Scalping injury||Green color||Thatch tendency|
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)||Poa Ingress||Drought||Wear||Scalping injury||Green Color||Thatch tendency|
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||Drought||Green color|
Table 6. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available tall fescue cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.
|Cultivar||Brown patch||Leaf spot||Red Thread||Pythium||Snow Mold||Poa Ingress||Green Color||SeedHead Tendency|
Table 7. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available Kentucky bluegrass cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.
|Cultivar||Dollar spot||Leaf spot||Summer patch||Poa Ingress||Wear||Spring Greenup||Green Color||Leaf TexTure||SEEDHEAD tendency|
Table 8. Relative disease and stress tolerances for some commercially available perennial ryegrass cultivars recommended for Massachusetts.
|Cultivar||Brown patch||Red thread||Wear||Spring Greenup||Green color||Mowing quality||Seedhead tendency|
Revised: May, 2023