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Perennial grasses for turf, sport and amenity uses: evolution of form, function and fitness for human benefit

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 July 2006

U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, 1925 Linden Dr. West, Madison, WI 53706-1108, USA


The history of genetic modification and improvement of perennial grasses used for turf and sport can be traced back to the earliest events leading to the evolution of traits such as perenniality, asexual reproduction by rhizomes or stolons, apical dominance and hardening or acclimation responses to environmental stress. Human influences on perennial grasses likely began with the dawn of agriculture and the domestication of livestock about 8–10000 years ago with the movement of grasses from forest margins and meadows to pastures and cropland. As agrarian cultures found more time for leisure and recreation, perennial grasses became multi-functional, taking on a greater role with the invention of ball games, sports and a sod industry. Early human selection of superior turf grasses was largely based on individual clones that were vegetatively propagated for commercial purposes, dating back as far as 12th century Japan. The science of turf breeding began in 1962 with the initiation of extensive efforts to collect superior clones from old turf sods in highly stressful environments, followed by numerous cycles of recurrent selection for turf traits in harsh environments and under realistic mowing regimes. These efforts spawned many public and commercial breeding ventures and thousands of cultivars that have spread throughout the world, improving the quality, persistence and functionality of turf for many uses.

Centenary Review
© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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