Turfgrass drought research leads to industry qualification program

Turfgrass drought research leads to industry qualification program

New campaign promotes 'grass is good' and drought measurements.

December 7, 2010
Industry News

ALBANY, Ore. – A grassroots movement is underway to promote water conservation with drought-tolerant turfgrasses.

Traditional turfgrasses sold in the landscape and nursery industry, at times, have received a bad rap. Now, with new scientific testing and third-party verification standards in place, there are turfgrass varieties that are TWCA-qualified and can be considered green by industry standards.

The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) has set a standard and has qualified more than two dozen varieties of drought-tolerant grasses across the nation. The nonprofit group is made up of independent researchers and seed producers who are dedicated to recognizing plants that provide a clear benefit in water conservation. 

One of the key research partners of TWCA is NexGen Turf Research in Albany, Ore.  NexGen is a private cool season grass research and breeding program in the United States. 
NexGen Plant Breeder Debra Hignight said the equivalent of more than 10,000 gallons of water is saved in the summer season (90 days) through evapotranspiration by planting the new TWCA-qualified turfgrass varieties.

“What is significant about the TWCA organization and our research facilities is this is the first time turfgrasses have been quantified on a consistent basis,” she said.  “Now we know there are differences between grasses.” 

According to data offered by the TWCA, it has been estimated that the demand for water has increased more then three times in the past 50 years, and will continue to increase in the decades ahead.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense “Research Report on Turfgrass Allowance,” released Dec. 9, 2009, has implemented changes for new home builders in the majority of states. The report notes the turfgrass allowance is no more than 40 percent in the landscaped area.  An average-sized yard landscaped in 40 percent turfgrass yields almost 2,500 square feet of functional area.

Mike Baker, president of the TWCA, said there are three major seed producers who have joined together with NexGen Turf Research and several major universities that are dedicated to the process of promoting sustainable turfgrasses.

“There’s still a need for an excellent quality recreational experience in your yard,” Baker said. “We are committed to this new process of research, development and qualification of innovative and sustainable turfgrasses.”