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New hybrid Grass shown to reduce runoff by 51 percent

By Rachael Plath, Good Morning Colorado Meteorologist/Reporter, r.plath@krdo.com
Published On: May 23 2013 10:18:01 AM CDT

A research team in Scotland has completed research on a new grass hybrid. The research showed the grass to reduce runoff by 51 percent.

The Waldo Canyon Fire has changed the landscape, and the soil's ability to retain water.  

Despite extensive rehabilitation efforts, flash flooding is a big concern in and near the burn scar.

Researchers are constantly searching for a way to reduce flooding and runoff, and one research team in Scotland is making progress.

A new grass hybrid has been developed, and is described as an absorbent and drought-resistant grass.  The study showed that the grass reduced runoff by 51 percent when compared to another generic grass type.

According to Dr. Kit Macleod, researcher with the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, the grass is efficient at retaining water because “the rooting and the activity of the grass creating more soil structure, so, more storage for water.”

The grass is a hybrid of a perennial ryegrass and a meadow fescue.  To view the results of the entire study, click here.

Macleod said the grass is still under the research phase, and will not be available for many years.  He said the next step is to test the grass on a larger scale.  Macleod also said it will not completely eliminate flooding concerns.

“It’s just part of the jigsaw and just our contribution, really,” said Macleod.

Scotland has produced some hybrid grasses that are in use in Colorado currently, according the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Eugene Backhaus, state resource conservationist with NRCS, said that if this particular hybrid is released, it will need to undergo further testing to determine if it will be a suitable solution in Colorado.

“The problem that we have with species that are coming from out of country like the ones that are being developed in Scotland is that we, NRCS, have to go through a process to determine what the viability of that species is,” said Backhaus.

Backhaus said invasive plants can destroy native grasses and can become difficult to control.  He said this can become a very big problem, which is why Colorado-specific testing would need to be completed prior to utilization.

He said this process could take between five and 15 years depending on the grass' complexity. 

“That’s a lot of what grass growth is all about, hurry up and wait,” he said.

The NRCS has an entire team dedicated to evaluating potential solutions to problems, like flash flooding.  He said the team is currently assessing what can be done to further protect life and property as effectively as possible with the funding available.

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