MSU researchers part of team investigating winter stresses of turfgrass in northern climates

Three Michigan State University (MSU) scientists are part of a multi-institutional team studying winter stresses on turfgrass in northern climates. The group received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), with $740,000 coming to MSU. The grant is funded by NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

All three MSU researchers involved in the project are in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. Kevin Frank is a professor and turf extension specialist, Joe Vargas is a professor of plant pathology, and Emily Merewitz-Holm is an assistant professor and expert in plant physiology. The project is led by Eric Watkins, a professor at the University of Minnesota.

When temperatures plunge, several turfgrass species deal with a multitude of threats that can lead to injury or death, known as winterkill. These include freeze and thaw events caused by fluctuating temperatures in late fall and early spring, prolonged exposure to cold air with no snow insulation, diseases, and ice encasement.

Despite these annual challenges facing turfgrass managers, winter stresses are not well-understood.

For this project, researchers are seeking to define the mechanisms that cause winter injury and develop best practices to mitigate them using a variety of techniques.

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Article by Cameron Rudolph