The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance has set a standard and has qualified more than two dozen varieties of drought-tolerant grasses that are being sold across the nation.
New drought research in turfgrass science leads to industry qualification program
There is a grassroots movement underway that promotes water conservation with drought-tolerant turfgrasses.
Until recently, traditional turfgrasses sold in the landscape and nursery industry have received a bad rap. Now, with new scientific testing and third-party verification standards in place, there are turfgrass varieties that are TWCA-qualified and should be considered green by industry standards.
The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) has set a standard and has qualified more than two dozen varieties of drought-tolerant grasses that are being sold across the nation. The non-profit group is unique in that it’s made up of a group of independent leading researchers and seed producers who are dedicated to recognizing plants that provide a clear benefit in water conservation.
One of the key research partners of TWCA is NexGen Turf Research in Albany, OR. NexGen is the largest private cool season grass research and breeding program in the US.
NexGen Plant Breeder Debra Hignight shared the attached image, which illustrates how the equivalent of more than 10,000 gallons of water is saved in the summer season (90 days) through evapotranspiration (ET) by planting the new TWCA-qualified turfgrass varieties. The image compares Mallard versus Solar Green turfgrasses.
“What is significant about the TWCA organization and our research facilities is this is the first time turfgrasses have been quantified on a consistent basis,” she said. “Now we know there are differences between grasses.”
Why is the NexGen research important? According to data offered by the TWCA, it has been estimated that the demand for water has increased more three times in the past 50 years, and will continue to increase in the decades ahead.
Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense® “Research Report on Turfgrass Allowance” (Dec. 9, 2009) has implemented changes for new home builders in the majority of US states. The report notes the turfgrass allowance is no more than 40 percent in the landscaped area. An average-sized yard landscaped in 40 percent turfgrass yields almost 2,500 square feet of functional area.*
Mike Baker, President of the TWCA, says there are three major seed producers who have joined together with NexGen Turf Research and several major universities that are dedicated to the process of promoting sustainable turfgrasses.
“There’s still a need for an excellent quality recreational experience in your yard,” Baker said. “We are committed to this new process of research, development and qualification of innovative and sustainable turfgrasses.”
The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) is a non-profit organization formed this past year and is dedicated to improving the environment through water conservation initiatives. TWCA recognizes and promotes plants that can thrive using limited amounts of water, helping to preserve our water resources. To accomplish this goal, the TWCA program is designed to recognize plants and other live goods products in the lawn and garden industry that provide a clear benefit in water conservation. Please visit www.tgwca.org for additional information and a list of TWCA-qualified turfgrasses.
NexGen Turf Research, which has nine full-time employees, is dedicated to producing cool season turf grasses that fit a variety of marketing needs. NexGen is operated by Kenneth Hignight, Director of Research, and Debra Hignight, Plant Breeder. The company and its research team are growing cultivars that require less water, fewer chemical applications and less frequent mowing. The Albany, OR facility has 2.5 acres of turf trials and in all there are 160 acres of seed research and observation trials in two locations in the Willamette Valley as well as on the East Coast. It is Kenneth’s focus of work to improve turf-type cultivars for tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and fine fescues. Areas of study include drought, disease resistance, and turf quality. Please visit www.nexgenresearch.com for additional information.