Buffalograss is a warm-season (C4) perennial grass native to the Great Plains of North America (Savage, 1934; Shearman et al., 2004). The stolons of buffalograss branch profusely, creating a dense sod (Shearman et al., 2004; Wenger, 1943). Buffalograss grows most vigorously in the late spring through late summer and slows with the onset of cooler nights and shorter days in the fall (Wenger, 1943). It is known for its low nitrogen and water use requirements, drought resistance, and heat tolerance and has attracted increased attention for its potential use in home lawns, golf courses, parks, and grounds areas (Fry, 1995; Harivandi and Wu, 1995; Shearman et al., 2004).
Currently, turf-type buffalograss cultivars are established by seed, sod, or plugs. Many of the problems that were commonly associated with poor establishment of seeded buffalograss have been remedied with the release of newer, turf-type cultivars (Shearman et al., 2005). Buffalograss sod often experiences transplant shock with turfgrass color and quality loss after transplanting (Giese et al., 1997). A similar response has been observed with buffalograss plugs, but prerooted plugs successfully avoid this problem (Johnson et al., 1997). Difficulties in establishing buffalograss from sprigs have been encountered, and there is very limited information regarding buffalograss sprig establishment in the turfgrass literature (Shearman et al., 2004). Sprigging attempts by sod producers and researchers have resulted in successful turf establishment in some cases and dismal failures in others (Thorson, personal communication, 2007).
Sprigging propagation methods have been used for establishing stoloniferous grasses for many years (Beard, 1973). Stoloniferous grasses that have been established from sprigs on a large scale with limited or no problems are creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.), hybrid bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy], and zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica Steud.) (Beard, 1973; Musser and Perkins, 1969; Ruemmele et al., 1993). According to Savage (1934), rooted and unrooted buffalograss stolons will establish in the same way strawberry (Fragaria sp. L.) runners take root in soil under favorable moisture conditions. In Texas, Ruemmele et al. (1993) reported that sprigged or plugged buffalograss groundcover was equal to that of sodded buffalograss groundcover 12 months after planting. In their study, buffalograss sprig survival was only negatively influenced in their study when temperatures were –12 °C or below within 2 weeks after planting.
Planting date may also be a crucial factor for successful establishment of sprigs. Warm-season grasses are best established just before the longest period of favorable growing conditions (Vallentine, 1989). Research in Texas demonstrated that bermudagrass has a narrow sprig establishment window from late spring through midsummer (White, 2004). Gibeault and Cockerham (1988) found that early summer sprigging of zoysiagrass was preferred over spring or fall sprigging. Mueller et al. (1993) recommended spring planting of nondormant bermudagrass sprigs because there is a higher probability of precipitation occurring at that time.
Growing degree-day (GDD) units often are used to predict different plant developmental stages and may be a better means of establishing planting times than arbitrary dates. Temperature can be used with confidence to predict a plant's development stage assuming other growth factors do not change significantly (Tyldesley, 1978; Wang, 1960; Yin et al., 1995). If the growth stage of buffalograss has an influence on establishment from sprigs, then GDDs could be useful in estimating the best date to harvest sprigs for establishment purposes.
Another factor potentially influencing sprig establishment is carbohydrate reserve status of the sprigs before harvest. The predominant storage carbohydrate of warm-season grasses is the glucose polymer starch (Smith, 1968). Warm-season grasses maintain a high carbon dioxide exchange rate and exhibit their most vigorous growth during the summer months (Hull, 1992). Conditions favoring vigorous growth result in lower carbohydrate concentrations than conditions in which photosynthetic rates remain high, but growth is suppressed (Hull, 1992). Stolons of bermudagrass labeled with 14C indicate that new growth on the stolon is a strong photosynthate sink (Forde, 1966). New stolons, acting as strong sinks, may not have sufficient carbohydrate reserves available to supplement new root growth when they are separated from the mother plant. This study was conducted to evaluate buffalograss sprig establishment. The objectives were to determine the effect of accumulated GDD, cultivar, and sugar and starch content of harvested buffalograss sprigs on sprig establishment.
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