Prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) is a perennial, cool-season, native grass that has shown potential for use as a turfgrass species in the northern Great Plains; however, limited information is available on its salt tolerance. In this study, salinity tolerance of four junegrass populations from North America (Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota) and two improved turf-type cultivars from Europe ('Barleria' and 'Barkoel') was evaluated and compared with kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), sheep fescue (Festuca ovina), hard fescue (F. brevipila), and tall fescue (F. arundinacea). Salinity tolerance was determined based on the predicted salinity level causing 50% reduction of final germination rate (PSLF) and daily germination rate (PSLD) as well as electrolyte leakage (EL), tissue dry weight (DW), and visual quality (VQ) of mature plants. All populations of prairie junegrass showed similar salt tolerance with an average of PSLF and PSLD being 7.1 and 5.3 g L-1 NaCl, respectively, comparable to kentucky bluegrass and hard and sheep fescue but lower than tall fescue and perennial ryegrass. Larger variations were observed in VQ in the junegrasses compared with EL and DW, in which 'Barleria' from the European population showed the highest VQ, following two salt-tolerant grasses, tall fescue and sheep fescue. Nebraska population was the least salt-tolerant within the species but still exhibited similar or higher tolerance than kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass cv. Arctic Green. Overall, junegrass was more salt-sensitive during germination but more tolerant to salinity when mature. Salinity tolerance of junegrass may be further improved through turfgrass breeding because salinity tolerance varied in different populations.
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