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NMSU to mark $1 million milestone in grass seed royalties

As New Mexico State University turfgrass researchers spread the word about their work during three turfgrass meetings in October, they'll also celebrate a million-dollar milestone in a university-industry project.

Arden Baltensperger and Bernd Leinauer
Arden Baltensperger, right, a professor emeritus at New Mexico State University, and Bernd Leinauer, a turfgrass specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, were pleased that a grass variety developed at NMSU - Princess 77 - was used in the Super Bowl field in 2004. Baltensperger released the variety, and Leinauer is promoting Princess 77 and other water stingy Bermuda grasses in New Mexico. (NMSU photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

During the second day of the United States Golf Association's research committee meeting Oct. 17-18 in Las Cruces, a ceremony on the research green at NMSU's Fabian Garcia Research Center will recognize the $1 million mark in royalties generated from sales of an NMSU-developed grass seed. The unique grass - NuMex Sahara - was bred in 1987 by Arden A. Baltensperger, now emeritus professor of agronomy in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics' Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.

Baltensperger, who led NMSU's agronomy department for 12 years, received a $90,000 grant in 1985 from USGA to fund his Bermuda grass breeding program.

"The funds were used for much-needed graduate student pay, operations and national variety evaluation, which speeded the release of NuMex Sahara, one of the first improved, seed-propagated Bermuda grass varieties," Baltensperger said. The new variety was exclusively released by NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station to Pennington/Seeds West in 1987 and seed production and sales started in 1990. Royalties from the sales of the variety are split evenly between NMSU and USGA.

"The success of NuMex Sahara stimulated research and development of seeded Bermuda grass by universities and commercial companies, and now more than two dozen Bermuda varieties are available," Baltensperger said. A variety also developed at NMSU, Princess 77, is being used on the NMSU football field and was used on the fields for several Super Bowls. "This is an example of very successful university and industry cooperation," he said.

USGA continues to be a major sponsor of turf programs at NMSU, along with the Toro Co., Pennington/Seeds West (through royalties) and the Rio Grande Basin Initiative.

In addition to the USGA meeting, NMSU hosted the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors' Turfgrass Research Committee meeting Oct. 2 and 3. The group is made up of turfgrass researchers from universities across the West.

"They come together to exchange ideas and give presentations," said Bernd Leinauer, associate professor and Extension turfgrass specialist in NMSU's Department of Extension Plant Sciences.

Turfgrass breeders also attended, Leinauer said. They were especially interested in the salinity research being conducted at NMSU.

NMSU experts in turfgrass research and other disciplines will make presentations during the Southwest Turfgrass Conference Oct. 10-12 in Ruidoso.

Leinauer will give an Extension and research update and speak on "Irrigation Requirements of Low Water Use Turfgrasses." Carol Sutherland, Extension entomologist, will outline the NMSU grub scouting program. Rolston St. Hilaire of NMSU's Plant and Environmental Sciences Department will address "Efficient Water Use in the Urban Landscape."

Ty Barrick, science specialist in Extension Plant Sciences, will discuss "Water Conditioning for Water Conservation." Robert Flynn, Extension agronomist, will present "Fertilization Based on Soil Testing" and Ryan Goss of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department, will present "Foliar Fertilization" and "New Mexico Turfgrass Weed Control."