Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 8, 2006
Publication Date: April 16, 2006
Citation: Casler, M.D. 2006. Perennial grasses for turf, sport, and amenity uses: evolution of form, function, and fitness for human benefit. Journal of Agricultural Science. 144:189-203. Interpretive Summary: The paper describes the history of how perennial pasture, range, and meadow grasses became domesticated for use for turf, sports, and amenity purposes. It describes the physical changes to grasses that have resulted from human influences, including changes that resulted from the beginning of livestock agriculture up to and including the intensive breeding efforts of the past 45 years. Because of the breadth of the review, this information may be of value to any scientist working on perennial grasses.
Technical Abstract: 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 8-10,000 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.