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Improving Drought Tolerance and Sustainability of Turfgrasses Used in Southern Landscapes Through the Integration of Breeding, Genetics, Physiology, Economics, and Outreach

The implementation of sustainable landscapes should be a goal in all regions of the country; however, severe droughts and limited water in the southern and western U.S. are dictating changesto the use of specific plant materials and irrigation in landscapes. There is a critical need for turfgrasses that provide functional surfaces tolerant to drought, reduced irrigation, and irrigationwith reclaimed water. Failure to address these challenges will result in loss of turfgrass areas, along with their economic, environmental and social benefits. This transdisciplinary group from sixuniversities was formed in 2010 to address these problems by developing turfgrasses with reduced irrigation requirements. To date, our group has released six improved cultivars for three of the mosteconomically important turfgrass species grown in these regions. Significant opportunities remain to advance drought and salinity tolerant turfgrasses with innovations in genomics that leverage the successful economic impacts of our previous work with evolving industry needs and societal preferences. The levels of improvement of our released cultivars are promising and substantiate the need for continued quantification of their reduced water use. Implementing education and outreach efforts to increase their adoption will maximize the economic and environmental impact of these grasses. Advancing our successful research relationship will increase the efficiency of cultivar development through use of new screening tools and technologies, and dissemination of information to stakeholders and end-users. Ultimately, these efforts will facilitate our long-term goal of reducing water consumption in landscapes through the continued development and increased utilization of drought tolerant turfgrasses.