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Assessment of Asian Festuca rubra germplasm for potential to improve rangeland sustainability in the western United States
- Robbins, Matthew D., Staub, Jack E., Bushman, B. Shaun, Ma, Yingmei, Johnson, Paul G.
- Genetic resources and crop evolution 2017 v.64 no.8 pp. 2127-2144
- Festuca rubra, basins, biomass, cultivars, drought tolerance, fecundity, genetic analysis, germplasm, grasses, introduced plants, landscapes, plant improvement, ploidy, provenance, rangelands, seed yield, summer, vigor, wildland fire management, China, Idaho, Kyrgyzstan, Utah
- There is a need for drought tolerant grass germplasm for use in wildfire control on degraded landscapes of western US rangelands. In 2006, multi-national plant expeditions collected eight fine-leafed Festuca rubra L. (2n = 6x–8x) accessions from the harsh semi-arid rangelands of Kyrgyzstan (KGZ) and the People’s Republic of China (CHN) that may have potential for use in western U.S. rangelands. Morphological and marker-based genetic analyses compared these collections with nine commercial cultivars, and four previously described high performance KGZ F. valesiaca Schleich. ex Gaudin subsp. valesiaca plant introductions in the high desert of the U.S. Great Basin. Initially, accession morphology was evaluated over 3 years at Blue Creek, UT for relative vigor, height, width, total biomass, persistence, and seed yield. Subsequently, a subset of the F. rubra accessions and checks were evaluated at three locations (Malta, ID, Blue Creek, UT, and North Logan, UT) over 2 years. All entries differed for all traits over years and locations in both trials, and CHN PI 659984 was consistently the best performing F. rubra entry examined. Marker-based genetic comparisons differentiated the F. rubra from the F. valesiaca accessions and the Festuca checks examined, and the F. rubra accessions based on ploidy and geographic origin. Because the F. rubra accessions examined were erect (25.5–76.4 cm), green during summer months, and rhizomatous with substantial seed fecundity under harsh semi-arid growing conditions, they have potential for inclusion in plant improvement programs for increased sustainability and wildfire control of western U.S. rangelands.