INSIDERSTurf & ForageHow the A-LIST is Unveiling the Path to Turfgrass Sustainability

How the A-LIST is Unveiling the Path to Turfgrass Sustainability


The journey into sustainable turfgrass management began due to the high demand for sustainability within the golfing community.

Originally, the turfgrass sector was focused solely on drought tolerance, but this approach raised questions. Breeding and variety evaluation initiatives permitted the use of fungicides and excessive nitrogen, which we found contradictory to the concept of drought tolerance.

We believed that if a grass needed fungicides or excessive nitrogen to exhibit drought resistance, its true sustainability was questionable. Consequently, a coalition of U.S. companies emerged to work on a comprehensive sustainability strategy.

We thoroughly examined the data surrounding sustainability and established the Alliance for Low Input Sustainable Turf (A-LIST), a non-profit organization that conducts independent trials across the U.S. and Canada to identify and certify the best performing turfgrass varieties under reduced inputs. This involved not only drought resistance, but also disease resilience and reduced nitrogen dependency, forming a holistic approach. Our journey commenced with trials involving Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescues.

For a cultivar to make it onto the list, it must undergo testing in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) trials and exhibit strong performance in the national program. It’s not just about excelling at low maintenance levels; they need to shine across all tiers of care. Not every cultivar suits every scenario. For instance, a cultivar might be perfect for a high-end sports field but not ideal for a local park or a high school field due to differing maintenance requirements.

We’re dedicated to future-proofing these cultivars. We’ve had inquiries from golf courses, sports fields, and park departments intrigued by the prospect of branding their spaces with A-LISTed, sustainable cultivars. This resonates especially with those seeking recognition for their sustainability efforts. The idea is to extend this branding potential to golf courses, allowing them to proudly display their commitment to sustainability through the A-LIST cultivars they use.

As we progress with this endeavor, we’re hoping to observe long-term effects. Our seed production regions have experienced unusual weather patterns lately, and our aspiration is that the cultivars we’re identifying might also prove to be more suitable for sustained seed production in these changing conditions.

While we’re still gathering data, it’s intriguing that some of the turf type tall fescue cultivars that met A-LIST criteria in our initial efforts are favored by growers. These cultivars seem to endure well and maintain productivity even during recent droughts. This suggests that we might have already begun identifying cultivars that excel not only in their use but also in terms of seed production and resilience.

Leah Brilman
Leah Brilman
Leah holds both a Master's and Ph.D from the University of Arizona. She aims to create resilient grasses that demand less water, boast strong disease resistance, and minimize fungicide and fertilizer use. Through collaboration with superintendents and distributors, she helps DLF tailor solutions to meet project needs.