The identification and selection of germplasm with improved drought tolerance will play an important role in developing turfs with better performance and persistence during drought stress periods. The objectives of the study were to: (i) determine the feasibility of simultaneously selecting plants with low-shoot-to-high-root ratios and increased root mass in lower sand profiles using flexible tubes under greenhouse conditions, and (ii) determine gain from two cycles of selection for increased root production within the flexible tubes. Seeds from two populations of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) were germinated in 29.5% (-1.4 MPa osmotic potential) and 28.5% (-1.2 MPa osmotic potential) polyethylene glycol (PEG), respectively, for each cycle of selection. The most vigorous seedlings were transferred to flexible root tubes, 63.5 cm long filled with silica sand, to evaluate for deep root production in the greenhouse. Clippings were collected weekly and root weights were determined after approximately 8 to 112 wk of growth in the flexible root tubes. The top 2 to 4% of the populations were selected for the following characteristics: clipping weights at or below the mean of the population and root weights (in the bottom 30 cm) at least 1 SD above the mean of the population for the turf-type tall fescue and perennial ryegrass populations. After two cycles of selection for increased root mass in the lower 30 cm, gain from selection was approximately 41% in a narrow population and 81% in a broad population of tall fescue and 130% in a turf-type and 367% in a forage-type perennial ryegrass. This technique should be very successful in developing turfgrasses with improved rooting characteristics.
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