Prairie junegrass [Koeleria macrantha (Ledeb.) Shultes] is a perennial, shortgrass
prairie species distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. This species
demonstrates tolerance to many environmental stresses found in Minnesota. In June
2007, 48 K. macrantha accessions from the United States National Plant Germplasm
System (NPGS) were grown and evaluated in two experiments; (i) seed production
characteristics and (ii) turf quality characteristics in 2 locations (St. Paul, MN and
In the seed production experiment, seed was harvested in 2008, and significant
variation was found among accessions for several seed production traits including harvest
date, plant height, seedhead number, and seed yield. A significant correlation between
seedhead number and seed yield was found, which can be utilized for indirect selection in
the production nursery. Plant growth and seed yield were highest at the Becker location
demonstrating the species’ preference for well drained soils.
In the turf quality experiment, mowed space plants were evaluated from 2007-
2009, nineteen accessions at Becker and 30 accessions at St. Paul performed with an adequate turf quality rating of 5.0 or higher when averaged over the three-year study,
suggesting the potential for use in low-input areas. Prairie junegrass from northern
collection regions displayed the highest ratings in spring green-up which is an important
turf trait in northern climates. There was a strong negative correlation between this trait
and mowing quality at Becker (r = -0.44) and at St. Paul (r = -0.34). Several accessions demonstrated acceptable mowing quality and would be candidates for integration into a
native prairie junegrass breeding program.
In June 2007 a third experiment was conducted. Three hundred genotypes
representing crossing blocks derived from Colorado, Nebraska, and Minnesota
germplasm were grown and evaluated for turf quality characteristics in a randomized
complete block design with five clonal replications at 2 locations (St. Paul and Becker)
and evaluated for three years. Following establishment, plots received no supplemental
irrigation or fertility and were mowed weekly to a height of 6.4 cm. Broad-sense
heritability estimates were calculated on a clonal mean (Hc) and single plant (Hsp) basis
for turf quality (Hc = 0.62, Hsp = 0.13), crown density (Hc = 0.55, Hsp = 0.09), mowing
quality (Hc = 0.59, Hsp = 0.09), and genetic color (Hc=0.45, Hsp = 0.06). The heritability
estimates indicate that selection for these traits should result in significant gains in
germplasm improvement. Differences were observed for means and variances among
clones, crossing blocks, and/or collection regions for many of the traits evaluated
including rust (incidence and severity), spring green-up, plant height, lateral spread,
vertical re-growth, and flowering traits. The positive correlations among some of these
traits and those with moderate heritability estimates will allow for multi-trait selection in
cultivar development. Rust (unknown Puccinia species) was present at both locations.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. May 2010. Major: Applied Plant Sciences. Advisor: Dr. Eric Watkins. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 117 pages, appendices A-E.
Clark, Matthew Daniel.
Evaluation of the genetic potential of prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) for use as a low-input turfgrass.
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