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What You Need to Know About NTEP: Part One "History"

NTEP evolved out of cooperative research conducted in the Northeastern U.S. during the late 1960's and early 1970's. In 1968, the NE-57 Regional Research Project initiated a cooperative trial to evaluate Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) at nineteen locations in the northeast and central U.S. Forty-three grasses were chosen to evaluate with the entries being split between commercially available cultivars and experimental lines. Entries were chosen to represent diverse origins and a wide spectrum of Kentucky bluegrass plant growth types. As a result, about one-third (13) of the forty-three entries included were developed and owned by European breeding companies.

Individuals such as J. J. Murray (United States Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland), C. R. Funk (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey), J. M. Duich, T. L. Watschke and D. Waddington (Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania), R. E. Schmidt and L. H. Taylor (Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia), J. E. Hall (University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland), C. R. Skogley (University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island), J. Kaufmann (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York) and G. W. Wood (University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont) were instrumental in creating a sound scientific structure for this first U.S. regional turfgrass

trial. Discussions ensued on appropriate plot size, seeding rate, management of trials, rating of turfgrass quality and other factors, statistical analysis needs, data reporting and interpretation of results that formed the foundation for much of the initial structure of NTEP. For instance, plot size used in that initial regional test was approximately 25 sq. ft. while current NTEP cool-season grass tests use 25 - 30 sq. ft. plots. Seeding rate for NTEP Kentucky bluegrass tests is still approximately 2 lbs./1000 sq. ft. as it was in the first regional trial. Also, NTEP still uses locations with varying soil types, textures and environments as was the case in the 1968 regional evaluations.

That first regional evaluation was completed in 1972, with a new regional evaluation established in fall 1972. In June 1975, a regional meeting was held at Beltsville, Maryland that produced significant results for the formation of NTEP. Fourteen evaluators involved in the 1972 regional test participated in a workshop to discuss standardization of data collection methods. Considerable discussion developed on the use of a standard 1-9 rating scale with 9 being highest quality turf, best disease resistance, finest leaf texture, and best genetic color. Afterward, participants moved outside to rate individually three replications of fourteen selected entries in the 1972 regional test. Ratings were collected on turfgrass quality, density, percent ground cover, color and leafspot damage

and were then statistically analyzed by a USDA statistician. Results of the statistical analysis indicated the evaluators varied their ratings significantly for all five variables. Evaluators then went back out to the field to further discuss the ratings and make suggestions on improving rating methods. These discussions led to a refinement of the system that eventually became the NTEP rating system. The group also realized that the interaction allowed them to better understand the subjective nature of turfgrass field plot scoring and helped them to be more consistent with each other.

The success of these two northeastern regional tests led to the initiation of a regional tall fescue trial in the southern U.S. in 1978. Interest in these tests continued to grow nationwide so that in 1980, a national Kentucky bluegrass test was proposed. About fifty evaluators across the U.S. volunteered to establish and evaluate this test. Eighty-four entries were received and included. No entry fees were charged for this first national test nor were evaluators paid for testing the entries. All work was done on a volunteer basis including the coordination of entry submission, data collection, data analysis and reporting. Jack Murray, USDA Research Agronomist, agreed to coordinate this effort from his office at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville,

(continued on pg. 6, column one)

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