Greener grass with less water? New batch of water-saving grasses showing great promise

During the winter, when most warm weather grasses go dormant, these hold most of their color.

Phillip Palmer Image
Friday, October 28, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

UC Riverside has bred grass to better adapt to California's climate for decades, but they've recently hit on a new strain that might be the best yet.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- We are living through the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years across the western states.

Many can see the effects simply by looking at their front yard and the results of water restrictions in place, which are especially tough on grass not meant for desert climates.

"We're using the wrong grasses so people equate their lawn as just being wasteful, just takes too much water, well it's really the wrong kind of grass being used," said Jim Baird, the director of UC Riverside's Turfgrass & Extension program.

UC Riverside has bred grass to better adapt to California's climate for decades, but Baird's team has hit on a new strain that might be the best yet.

Known by their field names, 17-8 and 6-3, the two patches among hundreds require 50% less water than most lawns to stay green and healthy.

During the winter, when most warm weather grasses go dormant, these hold most of their color.

"We always knew that a species like Bermuda grass uses a lot less water than something like tall fescue, but then when we look in the species, we're finding that some of the genotypes that we're developing use almost 20% to 30% less water than what we thought, and so it's quite amazing," said Baird.

For many people, it's not financially possible to replace the grass they have with more drought-resistant strains, but thanks to the research at UCR, Baird says there are other ways to keep your grass healthy with less water.

"One of the essential recommendations I can make is just, feeding your lawn. Not overfeeding it, I mean, sufficient fertilization is essential for just a healthier greener lawn with less water," he said.

UCR has already applied for patents on their new strains, which are expected to be released in 2024 under names that are easier to remember, but they won't be the last of the water-saving grasses.

Baird says they have others being tested right now that are showing great promise.

"We turned off the water for close to 60 days and we had some Bermuda grasses that looked like ... they just looked perfect. It's very encouraging to us because that's the future."