Fine fescues, taxa within the Festuca genus, are considered some of the most shade-tolerant cool-season turfgrasses, but past research from field studies has been inconsistent. The objective of this research was to evaluate variation in Chewings fescue (Festuca rubra L. ssp. commutata Gaudin, CH), hard fescue (F. brevipila Tracey, HD), and strong creeping red fescue (F. rubra ssp. rubra Gaudin, ST) morphology and physiology under simulated foliar shade and full sun. Experiments were carried out using 12 CH, 13 HD, and 15 ST entries within a greenhouse with or without a photoselective filter to simulate foliar shade. The filter reduced the red to far-red (R/FR) ratio to ∼0.66, and light intensity was reduced to 30% of full sun under shade treatment. Several parameters were assessed including height, the number of tillers, biomass, total chlorophyll, and the chlorophyll a/b ratio. In both sun and shade experiments, ST were significantly taller than the other taxa. Chewings fescue and HD had significantly more tillers than ST in sun, but both CH and ST had significantly more tillers than HD in shade. Hard fescue had the greatest biomass in sun, and the least in shade. Significantly more CH genotypes lacked shade avoidance responses (SAR) than both other taxa under shade, and a greater proportion of HD were shade intolerant. Based on this study, CH > ST > HD in terms of improved response to shade. However, variation for response to shade observed within entries indicates potential for future improvement.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Specialty Crops Research Initiative under Award no. 2017‐51181‐27222 and the Minnesota State Agricultural Experiment Station Project no. 21‐051. We thank Gary Gardner and Kristine Moncada for their critical reading and review of this manuscript. We also thank the seed companies for letting us use their material for this research.