Development of allelopathic turfgrass cultivars for enhanced weed suppression CALS Impact Statement uri icon


  • Abstract

    Certain turfgrass species exhibit the ability to produce large quantities of root exudates that contain bioherbicides or other natural products that are highly effective weed-suppressive agents.


    This finding is of importance to commercial turfgrass and sod producers, landscape managers, golf course and athletic field managers, and roadside and home landscape managers, including homeowners.


    We have evaluated over 90 cultivars of Festuca subspecies, particularly fine fescues, for their ability to suppress weeds and tolerate stressful growing conditions. We have determined that several cultivars exhibit a remarkable ability to suppress nearly all annual and perennial weeds in turf settings over a period of several years and in several locations across New York State. We have collected large quantities of Festuca root exudates and determined that their production is localized within the plants' fibrous living roots. We have identified the biologically active constituent of the exudates of fine leaf fescues. This structure is relatively simple, but novel, presenting great potential for use as a bioherbicide or for incorporation into other, less suppressive turfgrasses.

    We have filed a provisional patent for this finding through Cornell's research foundation. We are interested in working further with Scotts Company to develop this technology for commercial application. The weed-suppressive trait could be enhanced in other Festuca cultivars through traditional breeding or molecular approaches. Like the pre-emergent herbicides currently available for commercial use, the bioactive molecule we identified exhibits characteristics of growth suppression at very low concentration. It also exhibits selectivity for control of annual and perennial turf weeds.


    We are conducting demonstration trials of weed-suppressive fescues around New York State in conjunction with the New York State Department of Transportation. We anticipate developing weed-suppressive cultivars of fine leaf and other fescues with an enhanced ability to suppress weeds. In addition, the molecule we identified may provide a unique opportunity to further develop unique, natural bioherbicides for weed suppression in home and commercial landscapes.

    Funding Sources

    • State or Municipal (e.g., NYSDAM)
    • Private (e.g., commodity groups, foundations, companies)
    • Federal Formula Funds - Research (e.g., Hatch, McIntire-Stennis, Animal Health)


    • New York State Department of Transportation
    • Many county extension educators
    • Ithaca municipal horticulturalists
    • Horticulture Research Institute
    • New York State Turfgrass Association

    Key Personnel

    • Laura Greninger, NYSDOT, Environmental Analysis Bureau
    • Chris Gardener, Tompkins County Cooperative Extension