Bahiagrass, CP, and STA are widely used turfgrass species for home lawns and landscapes in the southeast United States (Trenholm et al., 2011a, 2011b; Unruh et al., 2011). In Florida, these three species accounted for 87% of sod production acreage in 2007 (Satterthwaite et al., 2009). However, periodic drought, the irrigation requirements of these managed areas, and mandatory watering restrictions have posed an inevitable challenge for homeowners and landscape managers. Understanding the differences in relative water requirements and drought performance of different turfgrass species and cultivars will help the end-users (homeowners, sod producers, property managers, etc.) to maximize the use of water resources in their future practices.
The comparative water consumption of these three species under non-limiting moisture conditions has been documented in a few studies. Centipedegrass was found to have a lower evapotranspiration (ET) rate (5.5 mm·d−1) compared with ‘Argentine’ BH (6.3 mm·d−1) and ‘Texas Common’ STA (6.3 mm·d−1) (Kim and Beard, 1988). In another greenhouse study, ‘Argentine’ BH was found to use 30% more water on a daily basis than ‘Floratam’ STA under well-watered conditions (Cathey et al., 2013).
The performance of different turfgrass species and cultivars during water deficit or drought conditions has been published (Carrow, 1996; Huang et al., 1997a, 1997b; Qian and Engelke, 1999; Steinke et al., 2010). Results of the previous studies regarding existing variations among species and cultivars suggest that irrigation can be reduced based on choosing the right species and cultivars for the local environment. However, information is lacking on water use and drought performance of these commercially available cultivars under similar maintenance levels, growing in the subtropical climate on sandy soils found in North Florida. St. augustinegrass dominates the residential and commercial landscape market in Florida with 51% of total sod production (Satterthwaite et al., 2009). In a study comparing seven STA cultivars during a 60-d drought in San Antonio, TX (Steinke et al., 2010), up to a 15-d difference was identified among cultivars in losing 50% green cover, and ‘Floratam’ provided the most consistent drought performance over 2 years. In addition, the drought response of ‘TifBlair’ and ‘Common’ CP has never been compared in the same study, only in separate studies (Carrow, 1995; Huang et al., 1997a) with other species.
A LGIS produces a uniform irrigation gradient and is a desirable system used to evaluate the drought responses of turfgrasses. Several studies have been conducted with LGIS to determine minimum irrigation requirements and to evaluate the persistence of turfgrasses under various irrigation regimes (Bañuelos et al., 2011; Qian and Engelke, 1999; Zhang et al., 2013). The objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of nine commercially available turfgrass cultivars commonly grown in home lawns and commercial landscapes of the southeastern United States during naturally occurring dry periods using a LGIS.
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