Soil degradation during construction is a worldwide problem that contributes to the challenges of re-establishing vegetation after construction activities. Failure to establish vegetation can result in soil loss through erosion and reduced water quality through sedimentation and associated nutrients (Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 2006). Therefore, the successful growth of vegetation to protect soil is vital for the provision of ecosystem services and environmental protection. There has been increasing interest in using composted organic materials from numerous sources as a means of ameliorating compromised soils to restore soil health and improve vegetation establishment. Although much research has focused on soil restoration with compost for planting trees (Layman et al., 2016; McGrath and Henry, 2016), less research has been conducted regarding the use of composts and turfgrass establishment despite the widespread use of turfgrass as a groundcover for postconstruction soil stabilization (Turgeon and Kaminski, 2019). Because compost is a variable product that depends on many factors, including source stock, age, and processing techniques (Heyman et al., 2019), recommendations for using compost that focus on physiochemical compost properties rather than simply volumetric proportions may prove more useful for landscape managers seeking to influence soil properties such as bulk density and nutrient and/or water-holding capacity.
Compost properties and use guidelines have been reported and identified for remediation of urban soils (Heyman et al., 2019; Sax et al., 2017), for urban tree plantings (Layman et al., 2016), and for roadside tree plantings (McGrath and Henry, 2016). However, because of the common practice of establishing turfgrass by seeding, as opposed to mature plantings of trees and shrubs, compost use recommendations in a turfgrass situation may require more information such as salt or nutrient levels of a compost. Compost amendment guidelines for establishing turfgrass have been mostly based on volumetric amounts from research in agricultural and orchard settings (Cogger, 2005); therefore, more specific compost measurements such as soluble salt levels are needed to refine compost use recommendations for many common turfgrass species. The soluble salt level measurement was chosen because it can be read by many handheld devices, elevated levels can impact turfgrass establishment, and it is widely used in greenhouse crop management.
Turfgrass is often established from seed; therefore, available soil moisture during germination is critical for turfgrass establishment. In addition to inadequate water, a high soluble salt content in soils can quickly dehydrate a germinating seedling. Soluble salt levels more than 4 dS⋅m−1, as measured by EC, can reduce the growth and yield of even salt-tolerant crops such as bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon), sugar beet (Beta vulgaris), and cotton (Gossypium spp.) (Bernstein, 1975); salinity issues in turfgrass situations are likely at a similar threshold of 5 dS⋅m−1 (Christians et al., 2017). For soil remediation, because composts are blended with on-site soils, composts with EC values more than 4 to 5 dS⋅m−1 can still be used if the overall EC of the soil:compost mix is less than 5 dS⋅m−1, or if there is ample irrigation water available to leach excessive salts or nutrients before they could negatively affect a germinating seedling (Gondek et al., 2020). In the case of a fast-germinating (5–10 d) turfgrass species, it may be important to leach a soil profile amended with a high-EC compost before sowing seed or germination. Multiple leaching events have been shown to reduce compost EC from initial values of 4.82 to 8.30 dS⋅m−1 to 0.35 to 0.90 dS⋅m−1 (Fornes et al., 2010); however, this would raise concerns regarding nutrient-heavy runoff or leachate (Flury et al., 2015; McPhillips et al., 2017). It is unknown if adequate leaching could be performed within a short timeframe (5–10 d) to allow for reduction of soil solution EC before turfgrass seed germination.
Recommendations of compost use in turfgrass situations are based on volumetric parameters. Linde and Hepner (2005) found that incorporating biosolid compost in a 33% volume ratio resulted in improved color ratings and increased density of kentucky bluegrass [KBG (Poa pratensis)] compared with synthetic fertilizer treatments. Over a 3-year period, turfgrass growth and quality of a mixture of tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus), KBG, and perennial ryegrass [PR (Lolium perenne)] were improved by the incorporation of a mixed-source compost at a volume of 20% to 33% (Evanylo et al., 2016). Establishment of KBG was increased with the incorporation of as little as 10% volume of poultry litter compost (Mandal et al., 2013). Stahnke et al. (2000) recommended a maximum of 20% compost by volume for cool-season lawns. These research trials suggested that using a volumetric approach to compost incorporation could yield suboptimal results because of a suggested range of 10% to 33% compost, depending on the compost source and turfgrass species. Volume should not be the sole determinant of compost application rates; therefore, there is a need for additional metrics for further development of compost incorporation recommendations. Development of a more precise recommended compost incorporation range based on compost EC or pH is necessary to reduce material and labor costs by incorporating the minimal amount of compost that yields the optimal benefit. Some communities provide rebates to homeowners for adding compost to lawns to improve water infiltration (Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 2009); therefore, research is needed to further develop compost use guidelines.
Compost nitrate content is also a concern during turfgrass establishment because of potential nitrate leaching and subsequent water quality issues during the 20-week period after turfgrass seeding (Easton and Petrovic, 2004), but guidelines regarding compost nitrate parameters are limited or linked to EC measurements. Avoidance of high nutrient levels by adjusting seeding timing has been proposed. Excessive ammonium nitrogen levels in biosolid-amended soil resulted in a 2- to 3-week delay in KBG establishment (Linde and Hepner, 2005). O’Brien and Barker (1996) found that delaying seeding by 14 d in municipal waste compost-amended soil containing up to 2300 ppm ammonium nitrogen increased PR germination by 23% compared with seeding at the day of compost application. Because fast groundcover is desired to limit soil erosion, turfgrass contractors could not allow for a >14-d fallow period before seeding (Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 2006); therefore, appropriate limitations measured by EC or by nitrogen content should be established.
Compost physical, chemical, and biological properties vary greatly because of the type of materials and processes used to produce a compost, which consequently affect the leachate composition and content (Chatterjee et al., 2013). Therefore, linking recommended compost usage rates to physical or chemical properties of a compost would allow for greater precision when using compost from different sources and different production methods, thereby yielding improved establishment parameters in a turfgrass situation. The objective of this project was to measure the effects of differing compost incorporation rates on perennial ryegrass establishment through leachate pH, EC, and nitrate content. The hypothesis was that as the compost incorporation rate increases, turfgrass germination would increase until the compost incorporation rate becomes detrimental to turfgrass germination because of the increased root zone nitrate content and EC levels. We propose this hypothesis because high levels of ions in solution, such as nitrate or overall ions measured by EC, may inhibit water imbibition by seeds or dehydrate emerging radicles of tender seedlings.
Bernstein, L 1975 Effects of salinity and sodicity on plant growth Annu. Rev. Phytopathol. 13 295 312 https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.py.13.090175.001455
Chatterjee, N., Flury, M., Hinman, C. & Cogger, C.G. 2013 Chemical and physical characteristics of compost leachates – A review Washington State Dept. Trans. Res. Rpt. WA-RD 819.1. 6 Oct. 2021. <https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/research/reports/fullreports/819.1.pdf>
Christians, N.E., Patton, A.J. & Law, Q.D. 2017 Fundamentals of turfgrass management 5th ed. Wiley Hoboken, NJ https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119308867
Christians, N.E., Martin, D.P. & Wilkinson, J.F. 1979 Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium effects on quality and growth of kentucky bluegrass and creeping bentgrass Agron. J. 71 564 567 https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj1979.00021962007100040011x
Cogger, C.G 2005 Potential compost benefits for restoration of soils disturbed by urban development Compost Sci. Util. 13 243 251 https://doi.org/1080/1065657X.2005.10702248
Easton, Z.M. & Petrovic, A.M. 2004 Fertilizer source effect on ground and surface water quality in drainage from turfgrass J. Environ. Qual. 33 645 655 https://doi.org/10.2134/jeg2004.0645
Evanylo, G.K., Porta, S.N., Li, J., Shan, D., Goatley, J.M. & Maguire, R. 2016 Compost practices for improving soil properties and turfgrass establishment and quality on a disturbed urban soil Compost Sci. Util. 24 136 145 https://doi. org/10.1080/1065657X.2015.1096866
Flury, M., Mullane, J.M., Chahal, M.K. & Cogger, C. 2015 Experimental evaluation of compost leachates Washington State Dept. Trans. Res. Rpt. WA-RD 848.1. 6 Oct. 2021. <https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/research/reports/fullreports/848.1.pdf>
Fornes, F.C., Carrion, C., Garcia-de-la-Fuente, R., Puchades, R. & Abad, M. 2010 Leaching composted lignocellulosic wastes to prepare container media: Feasibility and environmental concerns J. Environ. Manage. 91 1747 1755 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2010.03.017
Gondek, M., Weindorf, D.C., Thiel, C. & Kleinheinz, G. 2020 Soluble salts in compost and their effects on soil and plants: A review Compost Sci. Util. 28 59 75 https://doi.org/10.1080/1065657X. 2020.1772906
Grossman, R.B. & Reinsch, T.G. 2002 Bulk density and linear extensibility: Core method 208 228 Dane, J.H. & Topp, G.C. Methods of soil analysis. Part 4, Physical methods. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Madison, WI
Heyman, H., Bassuk, N., Bonhotal, J. & Walter, T. 2019 Compost quality recommendations for remediating urban soils Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 16 3191 https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173191
Hood-Nowotny, R., Umana, N.H.-N., Inselbacher, E., Oswald-Lachouani, P. & Wanek, W. 2010 Alternative methods for measuring inorganic, organic, and total dissolved nitrogen in soil Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 74 1018 1027 https://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj2009.0389
Iowa Department of Natural Resources 2006 Iowa construction site erosion control manual Chapter 2: Vegetation and soil stabilization control measures. 16 Feb. 2021. <http://publications.iowa.gov/8127/1/const_erosion.pdf>
Iowa Department of Natural Resources 2009 Iowa storm water management manual Chapter 5: Infiltration practices. 5 Feb. 2021. <https://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water-Quality/NPDES-Storm-Water/Storm-Water-Manual>
Iowa Department of Natural Resources 2018 National pollutant discharge elimination system (General permit No. 2) 15 Nov. 2021. <https://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/water/npdes/gp2.pdf>
Johnson, G.A., Qian, Y.L. & Davis, J.G. 2006 Effects of compost topdressing on turf quality and growth of kentucky bluegrass Appl. Turfgrass Sci. 3 1 7 https://doi.org/10.1094/ats-2006-0113-01-rs
Karcher, D.E., Purcell, C.J., Richardson, M.D., Purcell, L.C. & Hignight, K.W. 2017 A new Java program to rapidly quantify several turfgrass parameters from digital images 2017 Amer. Soc. Agron., Crop Sci. Soc. Amer., Soil Sci. Soc. Amer., Abstr. 108681
Kreuser, W.C., Pagliari, P. & Soldat, D.J. 2012 Creeping bentgrass putting green Mehlich-3 soil test phosphorus requirements Crop Sci. 52 1385 1392 https://doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2011.08.0416
Ksheem, A.M., Bennett, J.M., Antille, D.L. & Raine, S.R. 2015 Towards a method for optimized extraction of soluble nutrients from fresh and composted chicken manures J. Waste Manage. 45 76 90 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2015.02.011
Landschoot, P.A 1995 Using compost to improve turf performance 30 Sept. 2021. <http://www.agronomy.psu.edu/estension/turf/composts.html>
Layman, R.M., Day, S.D., Mitchell, D.K., Chen, Y., Harris, J.R. & Daniels, W.L. 2016 Below ground matters: Urban soil rehabilitation increases tree canopy and speeds establishment Urban For. Urban Green. 16 25 35 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2016.01.004
Linde, D.T. & Hepner, L.D. 2005 Turfgrass seed and sod establishment on soil amended with biosolid compost HortTechnology 15 577 583 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.15.3.0577
Mandal, M., Chandran, R. & Balasko, J. 2013 Amending subsoil with composted poultry litter-II: Effects on kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) establishment, root growth, and weed populations Agronomy 3 670 684 https://doi.org/10.3390/agro nomy3040670
McPhillips, L., Goodale, C. & Walter, M.T. 2017 Nutrient leaching and greenhouse gas emissions in grassed detention and bioretention stormwater basins J. Sustain. Water Built Environ. https://doi.org/10.1061/jswbay.0000837
McGrath, D. & Henry, J. 2016 Organic amendments decrease bulk density and improve tree establishment and growth in roadside plantings Urban For. Urban Green. 20 120 127 https://doi.org/10. 1016/j.ufug.2016.08.015
O’Brien, T.A. & Barker, A.V. 1996 Evaluation of ammonium and soluble salts on grass sod production in compost. II. Delaying seeding after compost application Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 27 77 85 https://doi.org/1080/00103629609369545
O’Neil, K.J. & Carrow, R.N. 1983 Perennial ryegrass growth, water use, and soil aeration status under soil compaction Agron. J. 75 177 180 https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj1983.00021962007500020005x
Sax, M.S., Bassuk, N., van Es, H. & Rakow, D. 2017 Long-term remediation of compacted urban soils by physical fracturing and incorporation of compost Urban For. Urban Green. 24 149 156 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.03.023
Stahnke, G.K., Braun, S.E., Byther, R.S., Antonelli, A.L. & Chastagner, G. 2000 Home lawns (revised) Washington State Univ. Ext. Bul. 0482
Thoms, A.W., Sorochan, J.C., Brosnan, J.T. & Samples, T.J. 2011 Perennial ryegrass and grooming affect bermudagrass traffic tolerance Crop Sci. 51 2204 2211 https://doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2010.08.0489
Whipker, B.E., Cavins, T.J. & Fonteno, W.C. 2001 1, 2, 3’s of PourThru 6 Oct. 2021. <https://ag.montana.edu/pgc/documents/PourThruHandout123s.pdf>