A number of alternative grass species, not widely used as turf, show significant potential for use as turf in the United States northern Midwest. Many alternative species have also exhibited better adaptation to low-maintenance conditions than traditionally used species, and it is also probable that these alternative species may have superior tolerance to common turf pests, specifically diseases. Yet, the use of alternative grass species as a novel integrated pest management strategy has not been explicitly evaluated. In this research, three experiments were conducted to evaluate the use of alternative turfgrass species as an integrated pest management strategy in Minnesota.
The objective of the first experiment was to evaluate the field performance of four alternative turfgrass species including hard fescue (Festuca trachyphylla (Hackel) Krajina), colonial bentgrass (Agrostis capillaris L.), tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa (L.) P. Beauv.), and prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha (Ledeb.) Schult.), under different low-input management regimes in Minnesota. Species were evaluated for turfgrass quality, weed cover, live cover, and disease resistance at two locations in Minnesota over two years. Fertilizer treatment and mowing height significantly affected species performance, and the results indicate that alternative grasses, specifically hard fescue, can be excellent options for lower-input landscapes. Two additional experiments were conducted to determine the economic viability of using alternative grass species as a pest management strategy. First, a choice experiment with real products was conducted to investigate the willingness to pay (WTP) of Minnesota homeowners for maintenance attributes of turfgrasses. Homeowners were willing to pay significant premiums for turfgrasses with reduced irrigation and mowing requirements. Secondly, conjoint analysis was used to further investigate the consumer preferences of Minnesota homeowners for aesthetic and maintenance attributes of turfgrasses, as well as identify potential market segments in the residential turfgrass market. The results suggest that maintenance attributes significantly influence consumer purchasing behavior, and they also identify a strong consumer preference for reduced irrigation and mowing requirements. The analysis also identified four potential consumer segments: the “Price Conscious” segment (consumers who value low cost), the “Shade Adaptation” segment (consumers who value grasses that can grow in the shade), the “Mowing Conscious” segment (consumers who value reduced mowing requirement), and the “Water Conscious” segment (consumers who value grasses with reduced water-use requirements). Overall, the results support that the introduction and use of alternative, low-input turfgrasses would be an economically viable pest management strategy in the residential landscape.