Covers, mulches, and erosion-control blankets are often used to establish turf. These technologies can be used to modify soil temperature (Barkley et al., 1965; Portz et al., 1993) and retain soil moisture (Dudeck et al., 1970; McGinnies, 1960) to increase germination (McGinnies, 1960) and establishment rates (Portz et al., 1993), as well as to reduce erosion (Krenitsky et al., 1998). Cover technology has been well-documented to influence the establishment of cool-season swards (Beard, 1966; Dudeck et al., 1970), but less is known about the establishment of warm-season grasses using various cover technologies.
The technologies used to establish turf are commonly referred to as mulches and/or erosion-control blankets (Lancaster and Austin, 2003), although germination covers or frost protection blankets are also used. Many of these blankets are designed for long-term soil stabilization (Lancaster and Austin, 2003). However, not all products used to establish turf are designed to reduce erosion, and a wide array of materials and constructions types are used to develop these diverse cover technologies.
Yu and Yeam (1967) first reported that the percentage of germination of zoysiagrass seed could be doubled by covering seeds with a polyethylene film, and Portz et al. (1993) found that clear polyethylene covers placed over the seedbed for 7 or 14 d after seeding increased zoysiagrass germination and coverage in Illinois and Maryland. Raymer et al. (2005) found that a combination mat/plastic cover was useful for establishing seashore paspalum from seed. Although soil surface temperatures rose as high as 56 °C under polyethylene covers, Portz et al. (1993) found little inhibition with zoysiagrass germination until soil temperatures exceeded 60 °C. However, Maki et al. (1989) reported that zoysiagrass seedlings can be killed or injured at temperatures above 50 °C under polyethylene. These studies indicate that polyethylene covers can be used to increase germination and early establishment if removed no later than 14 d after seeding or before excessive temperature build-up.
Other materials tested such as straw (80 lb/1000 ft2) did not enhance zoysiagrass establishment from seed because they exclude light and reduce soil temperature (Portz et al., 1993). Organic fiber mats increased carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis) and zoysiagrass establishment when used in nonirrigated areas, likely due to increased soil moisture retention, but did not increase establishment compared with control plots when irrigated (Hensler et al., 2001). Porous germination blankets made from spun-bound polyester can be used to establish bermudagrass and zoysiagrass (Patton et al., 2004), but these covers did not improve the establishment of zoysiagrass compared with polyethylene (Portz et al., 1993).
Previous research on the establishment of zoysiagrass and seashore paspalum from seed showed different effects from cover technologies, but no single study compared these cover technologies to one another. Additionally, very little information is available on the optimum cover technologies to use when planting bermudagrass, buffalograss, and centipedegrass from seed. The objective of this study was to determine how diverse cover technologies influence the establishment of five seeded warm-season grasses.
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