UMN and MTGF Virtual Field Day 2013, Low Input Grasses for Minnesota


Eric Watkins

Dr. Eric Watkins

Associate Professor

Turfgrass Breeding

[email protected]



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Did you know?

Prairie junegrass was at one time sold as sod in the western United States and marketed as ‘Turtle Turf’ due to its slow growth rate.

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Prairie Junegrass

Prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), which is native to Minnesota, has shown the potential to be successfully used as a turfgrass in lower-input environments. The species is widely distributed throughout much of the western United States and can also be found throughout much of Europe and Asia.  The species has several attributes that would make it a useful low-input turfgrass including drought tolerance, survival of low and high temperature extremes, and reduced vertical growth rate.  Currently, there are a small number of cultivars that have been developed from germplasm collected in western and northern Europe; however, these cultivars are difficult to obtain and the seed quality is often not adequate.  No turf cultivars developed from native North American germplasm are available.  Our goal is to utilize native germplasm in a germplasm improvement program.

Action Items

  • Be patient; a new cultivar of prairie junegrass will not be available for several more years.
  • While you are being patient, utilize other low-input grasses, such as fine fescues, that are more widely available.
  • Thank the United States Golf Association and the United States Department of Agriculture for supporting this research.

Additional Resources

Watkins, E. and M.D. Clark. 2009. Genetic improvement of prairie junegrass. United States Golf Association Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online 8(9):1-8.