Deicing salts are applied to sidewalks and roadways to lower the freezing point of water to enhance pedestrian and driving safety during freezing weather. Commercial deicing salts often are applied as rock salt, sodium chloride (NaCl), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), or other soluble salts. Sodium chloride is the most commonly used deicing salt with an estimated annual application of 8 to 12 million tons in the United States (Fischel, 2001). Although the fate and movement of deicing salts after their application is not well understood, significant amounts of salt accumulate in adjacent soils covered by lawns and other vegetation (Bryson and Barker, 2002; Viskari and Karenlampi, 2000), and large amounts also runoff into water ways via storm drains and other mechanisms (Cunningham et al., 2008; Godwin et al., 2003; Jackson and Jobbagy, 2005; Kaushall et al., 2005). Salts remaining in soil can be detrimental to landscape plants including turfgrass (Brod and Preusse, 1980).
Different strategies have been proposed to remedy problems associated with deicing salts, such as leaching, improved drainage, and using salt-tolerant species (Rieke, 1976). Butler et al. (1974) suggested that ALK, desert saltgrass (Distichlis stricta), and weeping ALK (Puccinellia distans) could be used in deicing-salt-affected areas in the northern region of the United States. Minner and Bingaman (1998) investigated injury levels caused by different deicing salts on KB. They concluded that urea and rock salts produced more turf injury than calcium chloride (CaCl2), potassium chloride (KCl), urea/CaCl2 (30%/70%), or NaCl/KCl (50%/50%) following applications of equal rates. After evaluating spring survival levels of 75 cool-season turfgrass cultivars following deicing salt treatments during cold weather at four locations in Minnesota, Friell et al. (2011) reported that cultivars of ALK performed best at the MnROAD research facility (Albertville, MN), whereas ‘Shoreline’ slender creeping RF (Festuca rubra ssp. litoralis), ‘Navigator’ strong creeping RF (F. rubra ssp. rubra), and some advanced populations of sheep fescue (F. ovina) from the University of Minnesota turfgrass breeding program were among the most salt tolerant at the Roselawn Cemetery (St. Paul, MN).
Ecological and population biological studies have shown that using a blend of cultivars may produce a turf canopy that is more tolerant to stressful environmental conditions than stands of single cultivars (Chen et al., 1997). The same results were observed with a mixture of different species (Ebdon and Skogley, 1985; Gibeault et al., 1993; Horgan et al., 2007; Hunt and Dunn, 1993; Juska and Hanson, 1959). Information is lacking on the shifts of population dynamics of cool-season grass mixtures caused by deicing salt applications and management. Turfgrass managers and seed companies can use such information to determine the optimal seed ratio of different species in a mixture that will result in a balanced population and maximum turf quality under the influence of deicing salts. Since KB and RF are used widely in temperate and cold regions of the United States as home lawn and landscape turf, and ALK offers salt tolerance, mixtures of these species may improve the overall adaptation and turf quality under saline stress. The objective of this study was to determine the optimum ratios of KB, RF, and ALK for lawn quality subjected to frequent applications of deicing salts.
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