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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Native grass ecovars: Potential for the Southeastern U. S. A
Year: 2002
Author(s): Smith, Jr., S. R., Phan, A. T., Wark, D. B.
Source Title: Proceedings of the Third Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 86-90
Original Publication:  
Abstract: There is increased interest in utilizing native grasses for conservation, restoration, livestock and landscape plantings, but their use is often limited by seed production and availability. Selection and breeding for increased seed production offers one option, but there are concerns that selection may reduce genetic diversity and result in a loss of important adaptation characteristics. The objective of this paper is to outline the native grass ecovarTM (ecological variety) development strategy used in the northern great plains and describe its potential application in the eastern USA. The term ecovarTM (ecological variety) was coined to describe plant material where maintenance of genetic diversity was just as important as selection for specific characteristics. This paper will describe the collection, selection and evaluation process for three native grasses: little bluestem, blue grama, and junegrass. Up to 1000 plants were collected for each of these species from 11 to 20 locations in western Canada. Extensive measurements were made on all collected plants and the characteristics that related to seed production were used to selected a broad based, genetically diverse ecovarTM for each species. The maintenance of genetic diversity was measured using morphological and DNA markers (RAPD). Results for blue grama showed that only nominal shifts occured in genetic diversity during the process of selection for improved seed yield. We believe that the ecovarTM development strategy has potential application in the Eastern USA to increase the availability of regional broad based native grass seed sources. This paper will outline how the ecovarTM or similar strategy could be employed in the region.
Publisher: The North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, October 1-3, 2002. Omnipress, Madison, WI
Editor(s): J. Randall