Among plants, the Gramineae, or grass family, provides the major component of human foods, either directly as cereal grains or indirectly by meat animals that graze the land or are provided grasses such as hay, silage, or freshly cut forage. Native stands of grasses throughout the world have sustained wildlife and later domesticated animals. Some of the wild grasses contributed genes to important cereal grains. Others have been collected and transported to gardens for evaluation and new uses. Still others have been used in hybridization for selection of new characteristics. Thus in less than 100 yr, the world's agriculture has benefited from genetically improved grasses. Likewise, grasses have been selected for intensely managed and heavily used sites such as sports fields and parks.
The versatility of grasses is unsurpassed among plants. This small book provides documentation for some of the advances made in genetic improvement of grasses. The smallness of the book and the relatively few scientists who have dedicated their professional careers to grass breeding severely underplay the great importance of the contributions of grass breeding to society. It does, however, provide a benchmark upon which future gains may be judged. It also establishes the advances made by traditional plant breeding practices and emphasizes the genetic complexity in a cultivar adapted to special conditions. This complexity of adaptation must be recognized as molecular-based plant breeding emerges as a reality.
The organizers of the symposium are complimented for the timeliness of their efforts. It is hoped that this book will stimulate further investments in research on grass breeding because the opportunities are great.
Calvin O. Qualset, president
Crop Science Society of America
What are the contributions to humankind as the result of breeding forage and turf grasses? This publication attempts to answer this question as we look back over the history of grass breeding in the United States. The contributions from forage grass breeding have resulted in significant improvements in herbage and seed yield, insect and disease resistance, herbage quality, and animal performance, to mention a few. Turf grass breeding can also claim significant advancements in the areas of adaptation of species to environmental stresses, insect and disease resistance, higher seed yields, and better turf quality for a multitude of uses.
Forage and turf grass breeders have a rich history of cooperating with scientists from other disciplines to accomplish their research objectives. Within the chapters of this publication, it is apparent that significant contributions by the forage grass breeder have come about through cooperation with agronomists, animal scientists, pasture management specialists, economists, plant physiologists, entomologists, plant pathologists, and forage chemists. Likewise, the turf breeding effort has been enhanced by receiving cooperation from horticulturalists, irrigation specialists, plant pathologists, entomologists, and others. Collectively, their efforts have resulted in forage and turf grasses being established on vast acreages in the United States—far more than for any other individual crop species.
The breeding and genetics of forage and turf grasses has not received the amount of research support that many cash crops have in the United States. Vast acreages of forage and turf grasses are grown each year which make significant contributions to the livestock industry, wildlife conservation, soil and water conservation, recreation, and have tremendous aesthetic value, yet the amount of dollars spent and the number of scientists involved is far less than what is needed. With this impetus, the Grass Breeder's Work Planning Conference appointed a committee to organize a symposium to document the contributions made by the forage and turf grass breeders. The symposium was held at the annual meetings of the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) at Atlanta, GA in 1987. This publication is the result of that symposium.
The most important attribute of any publication is the quality of its authorship. The authors of this publication are recognized as experts in their respective scientific disciplines. A great deal of gratitude is extended to the authors for their scholarly writings and enthusiasm for the topic at hand. Thanks is also due to the CSSA for sponsoring this important publication.
D. A. Sleper
K. H. Asay
J. F. Pedersen
K. H. Asay, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS, Forage and Range Research Laboratory, Utah State University, Logan, Utah
R. E. Barker, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS, National Forage Seed Production Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon. Formerly with USDA-ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, Mandan, North Dakota
Glenn W. Burton, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS and University of Georgia, Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, Georgia
Philip Busey, Associate Professor of Ornamental Horticulture (Turfgrass Breeder), University of Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
C. Reed Funk, Professor, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Soils and Crops Department, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
H. J. Gorz, Supervisory Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS, Department of Agronomy, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska
F. A. Haskins, George Holmes Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska
R. R. Kalton, Forage Breeder, VISTA, Land O'Lakes Research Farm, Webster City, Iowa
Gordon C. Marten, Research Agronomist and Professor, USDA-ARS and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota
William A. Meyer, President—Turfgrass Breeder, Pure Seed Testing, Inc., Hubbard, Oregon
D. A. Sleper, Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri
K. P. Vogel, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS, Department of Agronomy, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska