Salinity Tolerance and Recovery Attributes of Warm-season Turfgrass Cultivars

in HortScience

As population growth places greater pressures on potable water supplies, nonpotable recycled irrigation water is becoming widely used on turfgrass areas including golf courses, sports fields, parks, and lawns. Nonpotable recycled waters often have elevated salinity levels, and therefore turfgrasses must, increasingly, have good salinity tolerance to persist in these environments. This greenhouse study evaluated 10 commonly used cultivars representing warm-season turfgrass species of bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.), zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.), st. augustinegrass [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze], and seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum Swartz) for their comparative salinity tolerance at electrical conductivity (EC) levels of 2.5 (control), 15, 30, and 45 dS·m–1. Salinity treatments were imposed on the grasses for 10 weeks via subirrigation, followed by a 4-week freshwater recovery period. Attributes, including turf quality, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), canopy firing, and shoot biomass reductions were evaluated before and after salinity stress, as well as after the 4-week freshwater recovery period. Results showed considerable differences in salinity tolerance among the cultivars and species used, with the greatest tolerance to elevated salinity noted within seashore paspalum cultivars and Celebration® bermudagrass. In comparison with growth in 2.5-dS·m–1 control conditions, increased shoot growth and turf quality were noted for many bermudagrass and seashore paspalum cultivars at 15 dS·m–1. However, st. augustinegrass and some zoysiagrass cultivars responded to elevated salinity with decreased growth and turf quality. No cultivars that had been exposed to 30- or 45-dS·m–1 salinity recovered to acceptable levels, although bermudagrass and seashore paspalum recovered to acceptable levels after exposure to 15-dS·m–1 salinity. More severe salinity stress was noted during year 2, which coincided with greater greenhouse temperatures relative to year 1.

Contributor Notes

This work was funded through support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute for Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative under award no. 2010-51181-21064.


Corresponding author. E-mail:

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