As one of the most intensely managed crops (King, 2001), turfgrass used for aesthetics or recreation requires routine fertilizer applications (Rice and Horgan, 2011; Schwartz and Shuman, 2005) to maintain acceptable quality. However, conventionally applied WSFs (Kaminiski et al., 2004; Obreza and Sartain, 2010) are prone to offsite movement through leaching and surface runoff during intense precipitation or excess irrigation (Easton and Petrovic, 2004; Saha et al., 2007). Loss of nutrients such as N and phosphorus (P) not only reduces soil fertility and thus turfgrass quality (Evans and Sorger, 1966; Mengel and Kirkby, 1987), but also contributes to surface and subsurface water impairment. High nutrient concentrations are associated with increased algal blooms incidence, reduced water quality, reduced fish health, decreased oxygen levels, and drinking water contamination (Carpenter et al., 1998; Shuman, 2006; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2019b). Turfgrass managers need information regarding management practices specific to their environments to minimize nutrient movement without compromising turfgrass quality given the increasing awareness surrounding sustainable practices (Andiru et al., 2013) and potentially forthcoming governmental regulations (Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, 2013; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2019a).
Nutrient loss through turfgrass surface runoff is affected directly by fertilization and irrigation practices. Although minimizing applied irrigation can reduce nutrient movement, turfgrass surface runoff is still influenced largely by natural precipitation events for which the timing and depths are difficult to predict. Therefore, substituting WSFs with more slowly available sources, such as CRFs, provides an alternative management practice to reduce nutrient movement. Unlike WSFs, CRFs release nutrients in smaller quantities over longer periods of time (Shuman, 2002). Past research indicates application of CRF materials can reduce nutrient losses in highly managed turfgrass areas (Easton and Petrovic, 2004; Killian et al., 1966; Saha et al., 2007; Shuman, 2003) and may even improve N uptake. For example, Shuman (2006) found 10.2% and 0.14% nitrate was leached after the application of ammonium nitrate vs. sulfur-coated urea, respectively, and concluded the pattern of N release in a CRF may provide more efficient N uptake by turfgrass.
The market for CRFs has expanded with several control mechanisms available to turfgrass managers, including semipermeable polymer coatings, occlusion, and slowing hydrolysis of water-soluble compounds (Fu et al., 2018). Polymer coating regulates soluble nutrient release through diffusion of a semipermeable coating and is one of the most common control mechanisms of CRFs applied today. Nutrient release of polymer-coated CRFs is often calculated based on laboratory performed dissolution tests (Birrenkott et al., 2005); however, in many application sites, environmental factors such as increases in temperature and moisture regulate nutrient release, and thus losses (Medina et al., 2009). In regions along the U.S. Gulf Coast that have a subtropical climate with annual precipitation exceeding 60 inches/year (U.S. Climate Data, 2019), environmental conditions would be expected to increase the rate of nutrient availability from polymer-coated CRFs and potentially alter nutrient losses. More information is needed regarding the performance of CRFs in such subtropical climates, especially given the additional cost of CRFs compared with WSFs (Liu et al., 2017). Therefore, the objective of this study was to compare two fertilizer regimens—a single CRF application and a split application of WSF—to examine the influence fertilizer source has on N and P surface runoff losses from hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon × C. transvaalensis), a commonly grown turfgrass for athletic and utility sites.
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