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32 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 07.14 Roundup Ready returns to turf Editor's note: Employees of T e Scotts Co. are testing RRKB on t ei ome lawns during t e 2014 growing season. In 2011 The Scott's Co. announced it would release a genetically engineered turfgrass, a gly - phosate-resistant cultivar of Kentucky blue- grass (1). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the common nonselective herbicide Roundup. Although Roundup Ready technology has been around since the mid-1990s, species containing the gene have been limited to ag - ricultural crops. The Roundup Ready trait is widespread because of the low cost, effective - ness and relative safety of glyphosate. However, heavy glyphosate use is not without obstacles. The emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds and pollen contamination of conventional crops has been an ongoing concern in agricul - ture (5,6). Before deciding to either condemn or praise Roundup Ready Kentucky bluegrass (RRKB), it is important to consider the risks and benefts of genetic engineering in turf. A common misconception is that genetic modifcation is synonymous with genetic engi - neering. Genetic modifcation, which has been carried out for thousands of years, can be as simple as selection of plants to increase their utility. Genetic engineering, a rela - tively new technology that became popular in the mid-1980s, infers the insertion of a particu - lar gene (transgene), whose function is known, into a plant of a different species where it was not previously expressed. Gene insertion can be carried out in several ways and commonly Garett Heineck email@example.com involves the use of a gene gun or a biologi- cal vector such as Agrobacterium tumifaciens, a common plant pest. Because the effect and safety of these transgenes is not always known, several U.S. government agencies oversee the safety of genetically engineered crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates genetically engineered crops by controlling plant movement, plant pests and noxious weeds; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates genetically engineered crops, which contain plant-incor - porated pesticides; and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety of genetically engineered crops used for food and feed purposes (3). Before a genetically engi - neered crop can be sold to the public, one or all of these agencies must determine the risks the crop poses to agriculture, environment and food safety. The media attention surrounding RRKB has focused on how The Scott's Co. was able to circumvent all government regulation of genetically engineered crops. Any plant using Agrobacterium as a gene vector is regulated by the USDA, but Scotts used a gene gun and a Roundup Ready gene from a non-plant pest to achieve glyphosate resistance (4). Any plant-in - corporated pesticides (for example, the com- mon Bt trait) are regulated by the EPA, but RRKB contains only the Roundup Ready gene, which does not express pesticides. Finally, turfgrass is neither a food nor a feed product and is not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, the U.S government has no regulatory author - ity over RRKB, and The Scotts Co. is free to release it as it would any other nongenetically engineered variety. What are the possible risks from RRKB? Hypothesized risks involve pollen contami - nation, increased risk of glyphosate-resistant weeds and escape from intended area of use. In turf species, pollen contamination, which occurs when pollen from a genetically engi - neered crop fertilizes a nongenetically engi- neered crop, can be considered the greatest hazard (2). It can be an issue for seed producers trying to grow seed for organic growers or con - sumers who wish to have turfgrass that is not genetically engineered. Pollen contamination has been a problem in Roundup Ready alfalfa, sugar beet and creeping bentgrass (2). Apomic - tic cross-fertilization can be an issue if any na- tive plants are sexually compatible with the genetically engineered plant. Kentucky blue - grass belongs to the genus Poa, which has Presented in Partnership with Barenbrug (turf) about 300 species, some of which are native to the U.S. (7). With all the regulations and risks surround - ing genetically engineered plants, why are they so popular? Genetic engineering has the poten - tial to increase the utility of species in ways that would be otherwise nearly impossible. Genetic engineering can enable plants to better protect themselves from disease and insect pressure; it also increases resistance to drought and heat stress and allows resistance to nonselective herbicides like glyphosate. How important is RRKB in light of the potential risks? RRKB will allow consumers to have weed-free lawns without using alternative management prac - tices and species selection while using a low- risk herbicide (assuming no glyphosate-resis - tant weeds). However, using the correct species and variety along with best management prac - tices also yields high-quality weed-free lawns. The deciding factor is how much time and energy the public is willing to put into educa - tion and home lawn management. Resources on species selection and appropriate manage - ment practices are available through University of Minnesota Turfgrass Extension ( www.exten sion.umn.edu/garden/turfgrass/ ). Garett Heineck is a research assistant in the department of horticultural science at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul. Literature cited 1. APHIS. 2011. www.aphis.usda.gov/ newsroom/2011/07/pdf/KY_bluegrass.pdf. Accessed May 29, 2014. 2. Mallory-Smith, C., and M. Zapiola. 2008. Pest Management Science 64(4):428–440. 3. McHughen, A., and S. Smyth. 2008. Plant Bio - technology Journal 6(1):2–12. 4. Wang, Z.-Y., and E.C. Brummer. 2012. Annals of Botany 110(6):1317–1325. 5. Watrud, L.S., E.H. Lee, A. Fairbrother et al. 2004. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. 101(40):14533–14538. 6. Wilson, R.G., B.G. Young, J.L. Matthews et al. 2011. Pest Management Science 67(7): 771–780. 7. Wipff, J.K. 2002. Scientifc Methods Workshop: Ecological and agronomic consequences of gene fow from transgenic crops to wild relatives. Pages 143–161. (www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~asnow lab/Proceedings.pdf#page=145) Accessed Feb. 14, 2014. 032-033_July14_Turf.indd 32 6/17/14 2:10 PM