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Research Highlights 2020-2021

Texas A&M University

  • TAMU constructs 2000 sq. ft. lysimetry field facility in College Station
  • Experiments for drought mechanisms with St. Augustine grass pots initiated
  • Use of UAV with multi-spectral sensor for monthly data collection underway in Dallas
  • Establishment and evaluation of the SSPNs and advanced trial for all four warm-season turfgrasses planted at Dallas in July 2020 – Drought stress will only be imposed on the advanced trials in 2021 (starting August) and not on SSPNs due to slower rate of establishment of some entries.
  • Data collected from the SSPNs and advanced trials monthly in Dallas TX for establishment, turfgrass quality, spring greenup, and other seasonal traits. 
  • Developed an in vitro method for quantification of salt secretion in zoysiagrass,
  • In vitro method and has been used to evaluate salt secretion trait in major zoysiagrass cultivars.
  • Characterized candidate genes of sodium transporters in zoysiagrass.
  • Performed comparative genomics analysis between zoysiagrass and other major grass lineages, and identified major evolutionary events to be summarized in an upcoming manuscript

University of Georgia

  • Data collection for assessment of minimum water use requirements under rain-out shelters
  • Analysis of seashore paspalum lines and commercial check cultivars in growth chamber conditions to assess physiological mechanism for drought tolerance, measuring water use, photosynthetic traits, antioxidant metabolism, accumulation of protective solutes, and rooting characteristics.
  • UAS images are being collected on replicated field trial and single space plant nursey locations using the shared protocol across grant participtaing universities; Subsequent image analysis and data extraction are being conducted at the UGA Tifton campus.
  • Four SSPN field trials and four replicated field trials (RFTs) of advance lines planted in 2020 for evaluation of drought tolerance were maintained and reached establishment (> 80% coverage) by mid-summer 2021 (Irrigation to these trials was discontinued July 1, 2021).  Data collection from all trials using a combination of monthly drone images and visual scores began at green-up and has continued throughout the growing season.
  • An ancillary shade trial for seashore paspalum was planted in 2020 and allowed to establish until May of 2021 under full sun.  Shade cloth (65%) was applied to the structure over the plots in mid-May.  Plots were maintained according to protocols and digital images and turf quality data were collected monthly.
  • Salinity: all entries in the four RFT trials were increased in the greenhouse during 2021 to provide adequate plant materials for the greenhouse salt tolerance screening.
  • Actual salt screens of St. Augustinegrass and bermudagrass are planned for fall and winter of 2021. 
  • Salt tolerance screenings for seashore paspalum and zoysiagrass are planned for 2022.
  • Sod: plant materials were received and have been propagated for establishment of sod strength field trials.
  • Generation of a new F2 mapping population. Tested additional accessions that can be used as parents in crosses.
  • Improvement of the seashore paspalum genome assembly, version 3.1, has been publicly released on Phytozome ( 
  • RNA was extracted, libraries generated and sequenced.  Differential gene expression analyses are ongoing.
  • Metabolism: Plant materials for the target species (bermudagrass, seashore paspalum, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass) have been established in pots, and initial experiments screening plant drought responses and tissue collection for further analysis have begun.
  • Preliminary trials for selected species (seashore paspalum and bermudagrass) were performed, and a protocol for metabolomic analysis has been tested.

Oklahoma State University

  • Established a field trial for bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, St. Augustinegrass and seashore paspalum genotypes under a rainout shelter.
  • Evaluated the rooting characteristics of bermudagrass genotypes under controlled environment condition.                  
  • Initiated a greenhouse trial to study the root and shoot response of bermudgrass genotypes under drought stress.
  • Production of new bermudagrass breeding lines: approximately 10,000 seedlings were developed from the seed. The best 440 seedlings were grown in a selection nursery on June 25, 2021.
  • 2020 SSPN seashore paspalum and St. Augustine nursery were winter killed, substantial winterkills were observed in the 2020 SSPN bermudagrass and zoysiagrass nursery. Data are continuously collected in these latter nurseries.
  • Collected data in the two replicated field tests in Approach C planted in 2020 for bermudagrass and zoysiagrass plots. Drought data will be collected based on progress of drought stress in 2021.
  • Established two field shade trials for bermudagrass and zoysiagrass in accordance with the proposal.
  • Initiated greenhouse shade physiology and morphology studies including evaluation of light use efficiency of selected St. Augustinegrasses and bermudagrasses.
  • Established two field sod trials for bermudagrass and zoysiagrass in accordance with the proposal.
  • The nursery of 1,000 plants from nine polycrosses established on the OSU Agronomy Farm in 2020 was maintained to collect turf performance data.
  • A genetic analysis in African bermudagrass was completed to quantify genetic variability and identify QTL associated with winter survivability and drought resistance. The manuscript of this study is ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.
  • African bermudagrass OKC 1163 plants were delivered to Dr. Susana Milla-Lewis and Dr. Amanda Hulse-Kemp at USDA ARS for generating whole genome sequence.

North Carolina State University

  • Plant materials have been established in lysimeters with preliminary run of water use research to quantify reduced water requirements has been collected.
  • Breeding plots were setup with permanent ground control markers for use in the geometric rectification of the drone imagery.
  • A RTK-GPS survey was performed to precisely locate the ground control markers.
  • Additional storage was added to a computer dedicated to image processing and analysis.
  • Standardized flight plans were developed, tested, and saved in flight control software.
  • Three UAV flights were conducted to collect year 1 data on establishment and growth rate.
  • Radiometric calibration panels were created and tested.
  • Software code was developed to automate the creation of breeding plots for use in geospatial analysis (GIS).
  • Initial code was developed to calculate common vegetative indices from multispectral imagery.
  • Conduct drought evaluation for new mapping population of St. Augustinegrass in greenhouse.
  • Constructed genotyping sequencing library of new Augustinegrass population.
  • RNA-Seq data analysis of St. Augustinegrass under drought stress to identify candidate genes.
  • Identified QTL of morphological traits associated with water usage in Augustinegrass – manuscript has been submitted for review.   

University of Florida

  • Lysimeters were established in the greenhouse and installed in the field.
  • Data collected to determine the water use of selected lines.
  • New progenies were produced in the breeding program.
  • Trials were planted and are now established for SSPN and Approach C bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, seashore paspalum and zoysiagrass.
  • The field shade study was established for zoysiagrass and seashore paspalum.
  • The sod trial was established at WFREC

University of California – Riverside

  • Data on establishment and turfgrass quality are being collected starting Fall 2020.
  • The salinity and restricted irrigation field studies were initiated in July 2021 on all four investigated species – Irrigation with saline water at electroconductivity (EC) level of 4.0 dSm-1 and watering in the restricted irrigation trial
  • Data are being collected to evaluate changes in turfgrass quality under drought and salinity stress, and for recovery after restoring irrigation.