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Plant and Soil Sciences Faculty Spotlight: Yanqi Wu

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

STILLWATER, Okla. – Dr. Yanqi Wu has served on the faculty of Oklahoma State University in the Plant and Soil Sciences Department since July 1, 2006 and currently serves as the Meibergen Family Professor in grass breeding and genetics.


Wu received his Ph.D. in Crop Science with emphasis on Genetics and Breeding in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Oklahoma State University in 2004.


Wu found himself at OSU after discovering the vast research opportunities and state of the art turfgrass technologies held within the university.


“Oklahoma State University has one of the best turfgrass breeding programs in the world,” Wu said. “After doing some research, three mentors recommended I join the department of plant and soil sciences at Oklahoma State University.”


Wu’s major responsibility at OSU is to provide leadership for the OSU grass breeding and genetics research program.


“If we work hard,” Wu said, “then we can get there.”


His responsibilities also include teaching one graduate level course, Plant Breeding Methods; one undergraduate course, Plant Breeding; advising graduate students; providing graduate committee service; and mentoring undergraduate students.


Wu’s research specializes in grass genetics to improve cold hardiness and drought resistance. He is currently researching the development of new cultivars, and genetic and genomic research on important agronomic traits in bermudagrass for turf and forage, and switchgrass for bioenergy.


“Since I have taken this position, five cultivars – Goodwell, a forage bermudagrass; Cimarron, a switchgrass; NorthBridge, a turf bermudagrass; Latitude 36, a turf bermudagrass; and Tahoma 31, a turf bermudagrass – have been released from the breeding program,” Wu said.


The hybrid forage bermudagrass Goodwell has larger stems with wider leaves than most cultivars, which yields a denser sod in comparison to "hay type" varieties.


Cimarron switchgrass has an increased biomass yield, which is beneficial for biofuel production.


Latitude 36 bermudagrass was developed at OSU and is rated very highly by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program for its superb quality. Latitude 36 is among the most cold-hardy and spring dead spot resistant bermudagrass varieties on the market. It offers exceptional visual appeal, even in the highest-trafficked areas with its superior tensile strength and fine texture. The ideal growing zone for Latitude 36 is in the southern transition zone and it is a great fit for athletic fields, golf courses and homes.


Like Latitude 36, NorthBridge bermudagrass is as a cold-tolerant turfgrass that fits well in the southern transition zone. It performs very well in the southern two-thirds of the U.S. It has a fine texture, allowing for early spring green up and exhibits strong sod strength. NorthBridge’s cold tolerance also allows for use above the transition zone for commercial and residential landscapes, golf courses and sports fields.


Dr. Wu’s latest bermudagrass release, Tahoma 31, is named after the Native American word 'Tahoma', which means frozen water. Tahoma 31 has an exceptional winter hardiness and is 75% more cold tolerant than other bermudagrass varieties. Like Dr. Wu’s other releases, Tahoma 31 is a great fit for sports turf, golf courses, and high-quality lawns in the Mid-Atlantic and transition zone due to its improved wear tolerance and enhanced water use efficiency.


Dr. Wu is an integral part of the turfgrass team at OSU and values the cross-disciplinary collaborations the team provides. “We have worked hard as a team to reach our goals,” Wu said. “We have had the opportunity to place our turf grasses in 20 states over much of the country.”


It is not hard to find OSU bermudagrass varieties, as they frequently appear on your television screen at various athlete venues.


OSU turf varieties can be found on National Football League fields such as: Lincoln Financial Field home of the Philadelphia Eagles; Arrowhead Stadium GEHA, home of the Kansas City Chiefs; and FedEx Field, home of the Washington Football team.


The turf also makes an appearance on Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer fields: Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, Sporting Park, home of Sporting Kansas City; Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas, and Orlando City Stadium


College facilities also use OSU turf varieties: Bryant-Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama; Memorial Stadium at the University of Oklahoma, Kyle Field, Olsen Field, and Ellis Field Texas A&M University; Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas.


Wu’s next project consists of preserving water and allowing for the beautification of urban areas and sporting fields across the U.S.


“In collaboration with others,” Wu said, “We are working to develop a turfgrass that can go 30 to 60 days without irrigation.”


Editor: Molly Faught, Oklahoma State University Agricultural Communications Writing Center

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