Establishment and management practices for creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) are well understood as a result of its widespread popularity and use (Beard, 1973, 2002; Christians, 1998). Newer generations of creeping bentgrass cultivars require regular applications of both fertilizers and fungicides to maintain acceptable putting green quality (Dernoeden, 2002). With increasing pesticide restrictions coming from legislation at various government levels (Burrows, 2002; Cousineau, 2002; Gerretsen, 2008) and, more recently, with the restriction of fertilizer use in turf (Throssel et al., 2009), it is necessary to seek new approaches to achieve high-quality turfgrass systems.
Lower input species such as velvet bentgrass (Agrostis canina L.) could be an alternative to creeping bentgrass as a result of higher disease resistance (Brilman and Meyer, 2000) and superior putting surface quality (Moneith and Welton, 1932). Recently velvet bentgrass has been found to maintain acceptable quality in low-input golf course fairways subjected to two mowing heights and three levels of traffic (Watkins et al., 2010). However, establishment and management practices for this species have not been extensively studied and the limited research has focused primarily on older varieties of velvet bentgrass selected from South German mixed bentgrasses (DeFrance et al., 1952; North and Odland, 1934; Skogley, 1975; Sprague and Evaul, 1930).
Proper nitrogen fertilization is essential not only to turfgrass establishment (Kaminski et al., 2004; White, 2003), growth, and development, but also to recovery from physical stresses and damage from pests like Sclerotinia homoeocarpa F.T. Bennett, the causal agent of dollar spot (Beard 1973, 2002; Markland et al., 1969). Nitrogen application rate is also a significant contributor to other turfgrass qualities such as aesthetics and functional characteristics (e.g., ball roll speed and distance) (Johnson et al., 2003). However, applying nitrogen above the requirements of the specific species or cultivar in question can result in increased aboveground growth (Christians et al., 1979; Markland and Roberts, 1969), increased thatch levels (Cavanaugh et al., 2011), and lead to increased frequency of mowing. Furthermore, excess nitrogen may also reduce root depth and density (Bowman et al., 1998; Schlossberg and Karnok, 2001) and nutrient uptake (Bowman et al., 1998).
Three additional factors that can impact turfgrass establishment are root zone mixture, seeding rate, and phosphorus fertility. Murphy et al. (2001) found that smaller particle-sized sands result in good establishment of creeping bentgrass and a later study by the same author (Murphy et al., 2005) as well as one by Bigelow et al. (2001) found that increasing the amount of organic amendments in the root zone improves the rate of turfgrass establishment. Peat contains humic acid, which potentially enhances establishment (Cooper et al., 1998). The recommended seeding rate for velvet bentgrass in Ontario is 0.5–0.8 kg/100 m2 (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 2005), but the background for this rate may be empirical (Paré, 2004). Finally, established velvet bentgrass grows better at high phosphorous levels in the root zone (Miles, 1974), but no data are available for the phosphorous rate at establishment.
Two complementary controlled environment studies were conducted to determine the effect of these various factors on the growth of velvet bentgrass. The objective of the first study was to examine different establishment inputs for ‘SR7200' velvet bentgrass. It was hypothesized that velvet bentgrass would respond positively to 1) increasing peat content of the root zone mixture; 2) increasing seeding rate; 3) increasing phosphorus application rate; and 4) increasing nitrogen application rate. The second study expanded on the first one to include creeping bentgrass. The objective of that study was to examine the effect of nitrogen rate on both velvet and creeping bentgrass grown on either an 80:20 (sand:peat, v:v) or a 100% sand simulated root zone profile. It was hypothesized that increased nitrogen rates would improve turfgrass quality, that ‘SR7200' velvet bentgrass would be more responsive to nitrogen than ‘L-93' creeping bentgrass, and that the optimal nitrogen rate for an 80:20 (sand:peat) root zone would be lower than a 100% sand root zone for both species.
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