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Attributes of tall fescue germplasm of diverse geographic origin



Attributes of tall fescue germplasm of diverse geographic origin



Crop Science 28(3): 459-462



Foreign plant introductions (PI) of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) have not been adequately evaluated in the USA. Our objective was to determine whether variability in important agronomic characters exists among and within tall fescue accessions of different geographic origin. Twenty-six foreign PI and three U.S. cultivars were compared in each of two space-planted field experiments in different years and locations in West Virginia for water soluble carbohydrate concentration (WSC) of summer forage, yield, disease resistance, relative maturity, and winter injury. Accessions were grouped according to their geographic origin (three USA, 15 European, six Central Asian, and five Mediterranean). Data from the two experiments were combined because the same plant populations were evaluated in similarly designed studies. The USA and European groups yielded more first-cut herbage (166 and 152 g plant-1, respectively) than the Mediterranean group (110 g plant-1); they also yielded more regrowth herbage (51 g plant-1) than the Central Asian and Mediterranean groups (34 and 32 g plant-1, respectively). The European group was less diseased than the Central Asian and Mediterranean groups (P < 0.05). Geographic groups did not differ significantly in mean WSC, relative maturity, or winter injury. Substantial variation existed among accessions for all characters studied except winter injury. Among accessions, mean WSC ranged from 49 to 94 g kg-1, first-cut dry matter yield ranged from 49 to 180 g plant-1, regrowth dry matter yield ranged from 11 to 58 g plant-1, and relative maturity ranged from 1.7 (boot) to 5.3 (half bloom). Accession means were not significantly different in winter injury score, but several North African and Israeli introductions, evaluated only in the first experiment, exhibited .gtoreq.42% winterkill. Genotypes markedly unadapted to the study environment were eliminated during the first winter, resulting in a population relatively homogeneous in winterhardiness. 'Kentucky 31' was highest (P < 0.05) in WSC (94 g kg-1), but several European PI yielded more, were more disease resistant, or were earlier maturing. No foreign PI exceeded 'Alta' or 'Fawn' in yield (P < 0.05) although many had higher WSC. Central Asian and Mediterranean PI were generally undesirable in one or more characters. We conclude that breeding strategies for rapid development of tall fescue cultivars adapted to the temperate USA should concentrate on domestic cultivars and European introductions as sources of superior germplasm.

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