Genetic Characterization of Kyrgyzstan Fine-leaved Festuca valesiaca Germplasm for Use in Semi-arid, Low-maintenance Turf Applications

Wednesday, July 24, 2013: 10:30 AM
Desert Salon 4-6 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Jack E. Staub , USDA–ARS, FRRL, Logan, UT
Yingmei Ma , Horticultural college, Utah State University, Logan, UT
Matthew D. Robbins , USDA–ARS, FRRL, Logan, UT
Paul G. Johnson , Plants, Soils, and Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT
Steven R. Larson , USDA–ARS, FRRL, Logan, UT
Fine-leaved Festuca valesiaca Shleidcher ex. Gaudin (2n = 2x-4x) is native to heavily-grazed, cold, semi-arid, Asian rangelands.  However, its potential for low-maintenance turf applications in the semi-arid western United States and its relatedness to other agriculturally important Festuca species has not been investigated.  Therefore, a project was designed to identify F. valesiaca accessions that possess horticultural potential when grown under semi-arid growing conditions and to characterize their relatedness to other Festuca species.  In 2008, 12 F. valesiaca accessions originating from Kyrgyzstan and eight U.S. cultivars were transplanted as replicated spaced plants to a field nursery at Blue Creek, UT.  Relative vigor, height, width, total biomass (dry matter yield), seed weight, and seed number were evaluated between 2009 and 2011.  Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis (1,530 bands) was used to characterize F. valesiaca relatedness to other economically important Festuca species.  Plant height, width, and total biomass of the F. valesiaca accessions examined were equal to the commercial control, ‘Cascade’ [F. rubra L. subsp. commutata (Gaudin) Markgr.-Dann.; 6x; chewings fescue].  Plant vigor and seed weight of F. valesiaca accessions PI 659923, PI 659932, W6 30575, and W6 30588 under semi-arid conditions (~300 mm annual precipitation) were significantly (P < 0.05) greater than ‘Cascade’.  Moreover, principal component analysis using all traits as loading factors indicated that these F. valesiaca accessions were distinct from the majority of the other Festuca accessions examined.  These F. valesiaca accessions produced abundant amounts of small seed, and this seed yield was significantly correlated with total biomass (r2 = 0.84, P < 0.001), plant height (r2 = 0.58, P < 0.05), and plant vigor (r2 = 0.83, P < 0.001).  An AFLP-based neighbor-joining cluster analysis defined five distinct groups consisting of diverse Festuca species (Outgroups; Group 1), F. idahoensis (Group 2), F. rubra (Group 3), F. ovina and F. valesiaca (Group 4), and F. trachyphylla (Group 5).  The F. valesiaca accessions differed from U.S. Festuca cultivars examined, except for ‘Durar’ (F. ovina L.; 6x; sheep fescue), to which they had strong genetic affinities.  Given their morphological attributes, F. valesiaca PI 659923, W6 30575, PI 659932, and W6 30588 should be considered for use in low maintenance, semi-arid turf improvement programs in the western United States.