The Turfgrass Science team from the University of Minnesota was well-represented at this year’s ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting held on November 6-9, 2022 in Baltimore, MD.
Below is a listing of the abstracts from the meeting:
Reducing Environmental Risk in Genetically Modified Perennial Ryegrass
Presented by Jonathan Cors; co-authored by Eric Watkins and Michael Smanski
Abstract. Genetically modified turfgrasses can incorporate several unique genes that can increase profits through different pathways than traditional plant breeding methods. Specifically, perennial ryegrass, an economically important species of turfgrass, would greatly benefit from the ability to be genetically modified. To safely release a genetically modified turfgrass, it is first necessary to address the high potential for that genetic edit to transfer to wild type populations through hybridization. Engineered genetic incompatibility (EGI), is a way to enact a species like barrier to reproduction, cutting off gene flow with wild varieties. EGI utilizes a CRISPR-activator system with a gRNA targeting the wild type promoter of a tightly controlled gene, while at the same time having a silent point mutation within the EGI plant at that same promoter. Within the EGI plant, the CRISPR-activator doesn’t bind, as the promoter region has been mutated, and there is no effect. However, once it crosses with a wild type organism, it will have one copy of the wild type promoter. This gives the CRISPR-activator a place to bind, driving overexpression and consequently death of the hybrid offspring. While this effectively makes it impossible for an EGI plant to cross with wild type individuals, it does not mean that an EGI plant is sterile, in contrast to other biocontainment methods. EGI plants can still be bred with other plants that have that same EGI mutation, producing viable offspring. This biocontrol method would allow for the further introgression of other beneficial genetic mutations without the concern for uncontrolled spread of said genetic mutation.
Cors, J., Watkins, E., & Smanski, M. (2022) Reducing Environmental Risk in Genetically Modified Perennial Ryegrass [Abstract]. ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD. https://scisoc.confex.com/scisoc/2022am/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/142516
Using Environmental Sensors on Golf Course Greens to Improve Knowledge and Management of Winter Stresses in Cold Climates
Presented by Eric Watkins; co-authored by Bryan Runck, Andrew Hollman, Bobby Schulz, and Jeffrey Bishop
Abstract. Winter damage to putting greens results in increased direct costs related to turf recovery and can also reduce revenue due through decreased spring play. In particular, ice damage to annual bluegrass (Poa annua) golf course putting greens is a significant problem throughout the northern U.S., Canada, and other temperate areas with severe winter conditions. Researchers have struggled to discover effective approaches to reducing winter stress damage because variability in winter conditions, both at a given site, and across time, limits the broad application of research results and hinders data collection. Our approach to this problem is to monitor winter stress effects on hundreds of golf greens throughout cold climates using a combination of novel environmental sensing nodes, weather data, and golf course superintendent observations. This approach should result in finding many instances of winter damage, allowing us to determine combinations of environments that put turfgrasses most at risk. Outcomes of this work can inform the work of turfgrass management specialists, plant breeders, plant physiologists, and plant pathologists as we seek solutions to winter stress injury of turfgrasses.
Watkins, E., Runck, B., Hollman, A., Schulz, B., & Bishop, J. (2022) Using Environmental Sensors on Golf Course Greens to Improve Knowledge and Management of Winter Stresses in Cold Climates. [Abstract]. ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD. https://scisoc.confex.com/scisoc/2022am/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/142867
“It’s Hot and Rubbery” Vs. “Soft and Plush.” Comparing Perceptions of Artificial Turf to Natural Grass
Presented by Michael Barnes; co-authored by Eric Watkins
Abstract. Lawns make up a significant portion of green spaces in urban areas and afford a variety of ecosystem services that benefit nature and people. Despite such benefits, traditional turfgrass lawns are often critiqued for the amount of inputs required to maintain them such as fertilizer and water. With such input concerns in mind, some cities have found an alternative ground cover in artificial turf. While frequently used in professional sports, the proliferation of artificial turf fields outside of this domain has prompted both environmental and human health concerns. Despite such concerns, research on artificial turf has been minimal compared to the growth of installations, especially related to social aspects of the surface. The current study utilized a nationwide online survey and an in-person experiential survey to assess perceptions of artificial turf and natural grass. Overall, participants preferred natural turfgrass across all use cases except those involving sports where the surfaces were equal, and viewed it as more sustainable than artificial turf. These findings have implications for decision makers as they consider adoption of artificial turf in their communities when other alternatives to obtain sustainability and maintenance savings (e.g, low input turfgrasses, bee lawns) exist.
Barnes, M., & Watkins, E. (2022) “It’s Hot and Rubbery” Vs. “Soft and Plush.” Comparing Perceptions of Artificial Turf to Natural Grass. [Abstract]. ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD. https://scisoc.confex.com/scisoc/2022am/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/142532