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New Mexico State University

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Turf's up! Grass studied on Triviz, planted east of football stadium

Two New Mexico State University turfgrass specialists, a pair of research associates and a couple of graduate students will study the effects of lower-quality water on different types of grass in Las Cruces.

tion of the site on Triviz Drive has begun, but the research has not yet started, Bernhard Leinauer, NMSU assistant professor and extension turfgrass specialist, said.

Leinauer is leading a team that includes Ryan Goss, an assistant professor of turfgrass science and management, research associates Jose Makk and Ty Barrick, and graduate students Casey Johnson and Yoshi Ikemura. The team will conduct its research on five acres off Triviz Drive this year. The research, which may be expanded to 15 acres if funds can be secured, is expected to last several years, Leinauer said.

Low-quality water is usually water not fit for human consumption. This includes effluent discharge from treatment plants; "grey water," which is any discharge from human households except toilet water; surface runoff; saline ground water or even seawater. This water is usually high in salt content and can theoretically be used for landscape irrigation to replace potable water. However, the salt content limits its use to salt tolerant plants only.

Grasses being studied include cool-season grasses such as alkaligrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass and Texas bluegrass, and warm-season grasses that include Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, seashore paspalum, centipedegrass, buffalograss and inland saltgrass. All of these grasses could be grown in New Mexico, Leinauer said.

Leinauer's team is also using high-saline ground water in its study south of the NMSU golf course. The high demand for this type of research has created the need to expand, Leinauer said, adding that the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) and two seeding companies, Barenbrug Inc. and Pennington/Seeds West, asked the team to conduct research to develop and screen for varieties that have low water use and salinity tolerance.

"Using nonpotable saline water is a key component in water conservation strategies for turfgrass areas," Leinauer said.

Leinauer said financial support for the project comes from NMSU's Office of Facilities and Services, College of Agriculture and Home Economics, and Water Resources Research Institute as well as the U.S. Golf Association, Rio Grande Basin Initiative and Toro Co.

NMSU is also adding turf to the parking lot east of Aggie Memorial Stadium. By using low-quality water and underground irrigation, the project helps make up for turf area that was lost with the new parking lot at the old tennis center, said Rich MacRorie, NMSU executive director of facilities operations and utilities. The project also helps control dust as part of the "Natural Events Action Plan," which requires the university and other major parties in Dona Ana County to pursue reasonable measures to limit dust generation.

The parking lot project got under way when construction began on the new five-million-gallon water storage tank on the hill overlooking the golf course, MacRorie said. The contractor placed, spread and leveled the sand from the excavation on this site. Sand is much better for turf than the hard, rocky soil beneath it and now that the football season has ended, more work can be done at the site.