Utah State University researchers are studying and testing varieties of grass for beauty and efficiency. Lawns and golf courses have more than sprinklers and lawnmowers keeping them green in the hot summer months.
“We do three things: teaching, research and extension,” said Larry Rupp, an extension specialist in landscape horticulture at Utah State University. “The research is important because that’s where we get the information that we share with people. The research doesn’t do much good if we don’t get the word out on what we’ve found.”
According to Kelly Kopp, an extension water conservation and turf grass specialist, Kentucky bluegrass is the most popular grass used on landscapes in Utah.
“There are good reasons for that,” Kopp said. “It’s very functional, it happens to be able to withstand drought and recover from drought. Because it’s used so extensively we do quite a bit of research here looking at varieties of Kentucky blue grass that use even less water. It can have fewer inputs and still maintain a high level of quality and function.”
Kopp said some Kentucky bluegrass varieties currently being tested can withstand months without irrigation. While most people like having green lawns, she said some people are worried lawns are wasting water.
“In terms of carbon sequestration, as a plant material grasses sequester more carbon than any other plant,” Kopp said. “They filter fertilizers, pesticides, particulate matter from the atmosphere. That gets lost in a lot of those conversations. We try to emphasize those sorts of things but with people so concerned about water we recognize that. We try to work with and develop these grasses that do use less water, particularly in the west. Obviously water is an issue here.”