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Benjamin Wherley and Thomas R. Sinclair

Resolution of the effects of trinexapac-ethyl and nitrogen (N) application rate on evapotranspiration of low-cut, prostrate turfgrass species such as creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.) and hybrid bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × Cynodon transvaalensis Burtt-Davy] has not been explored. This study sought to examine the integrated growth and evapotranspiration responses of these two turfgrass species to two N rates and application of trinexapac-ethyl, a commonly used growth-regulating compound for suppressing turfgrass shoot growth. ‘Penncross’ creeping bentgrass and ‘Tifdwarf’ bermudagrass were studied. We hypothesized that application of trinexapac-ethyl and/or lower N application rates might result in lower rates of turfgrass evapotranspiration. Two greenhouse studies were conducted over 6-week periods in 2008. A completely randomized design was used to support a two species × two N rate × two trinexapac-ethyl rate factorial. Shoot and root growth and evapotranspiration were determined from the two grass species when maintained in well-watered conditions and grown in pots. The treatments were either a high N (1.2 g N/m2/week) or a low N (0.3 g N/m2/week) application and either 0 or 28 mg·m−2 a.i. trinexapac-ethyl. Application of trinexapac-ethyl and use of the low N rate each significantly reduced shoot growth in both species; however, neither factor caused a reduction in turfgrass water use. The high N rate promoted increased root growth in both species during the spring, but there was no effect of either factor on rooting during the summer study. These results indicate that although decreasing N application rates and applying trinexapac-ethyl effectively suppress shoot growth, neither is likely to have any impact on overall water requirements for these species when maintained in well-watered conditions.

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Daniel Hargey, Benjamin Wherley, Andrew Malis, James Thomas, and Ambika Chandra

During water conservation periods, municipal water purveyors often limit irrigation for established lawns to once every 7 to 14 days, although a 4- to 6-week variance to these restrictions is often permitted for turfgrass establishment. Therefore, establishment practices promoting rapid development of a deep and expansive root system during this time may support long-term success of the turf once irrigation is scaled back. Sod producers and turf managers could benefit from information on the influence of mowing practices and plant growth regulator (PGR) applications on turf root development during this initial establishment period. The objectives of this greenhouse study were to 1) evaluate the effects of mowing and trinexapac-ethyl (TE) application on final turf quality and root development characteristics (weight, total length, and extension rate) of st. augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) sod during a 35-day establishment period, and 2) compare the quality and rooting potential of ‘TamStar’, a newly released, embryo-rescue-derived cultivar possessing good drought resistance, with ‘Floratam’, the current industry standard for drought resistance. Weekly mowing reduced both total (2.5 to 90 cm) and deep (45 to 90 cm) root weight and root length in both cultivars. TE had no effect on visual quality of ‘TamStar’, but decreased turf quality in ‘Floratam’. TE reduced clipping yields of both cultivars but did not improve root development for either cultivar. Depth of maximal root extension during establishment was unaffected by cultivar, mowing, or TE treatment. At the conclusion of the 35-day establishment period, ‘TamStar’ exhibited superior turf quality and root weight relative to ‘Floratam’, but also produced higher rates of shoot growth. Results emphasize the importance of withholding mowing during st. augustinegrass establishment, particularly for improving total root length and deep root production, and also show that TE does not improve root development of st. augustinegrass during establishment.

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Thomas R. Sinclair, Andrew Schreffler, Benjamin Wherley, and Michael D. Dukes

Although root development is critical in the establishment of turfgrass sod, there appears to be no information on the response of root development during sod establishment to the frequency and amount of irrigation. Two alternate hypotheses for the root development response are that 1) frequent and high amounts of irrigation are needed to support sod growth and root development; and 2) deficit irrigation encourages more rapid and deeper rooting. The objective of this study was to observe root development of four warm-season turfgrasses subjected to various frequencies and amounts of irrigation. Root extension of the grasses was observed directly in soil contained in 90-cm tall, clear acrylic columns. No difference in root development was observed for any of the grasses among irrigation frequency treatments of daily, twice weekly, and once weekly. There were differences in response to the amount of irrigation. Zoysiagrass root development was maximal at the full amount of irrigation (35 mm per week). On the other hand, St. Augustinegrass, bermudagrass, and bahiagrass required deficit irrigation of only 13 mm water per week to achieve full root development. The results of this study showed that each of the two hypotheses were appropriate depending on the specific species.

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Daniel Hargey, Benjamin Wherley, Casey Reynolds, Richard White, and Garrett Parker

Municipal water restrictions across the southern and southwestern United States have created additional challenges for maintaining safe playing surfaces on recreational turf facilities. In recent years, many cities within these regions have begun to impose irrigation restrictions during winter months. Although winter overseeding has been regularly practiced in these areas, interest and use of colorants as an alternative to overseeding has grown due to decreasing water availability and budget concerns. Data on relative performance of colorant-treated vs. overseeded dormant turf would be of interest to turf managers, because colorants may be more cost-effective and require less water than winter overseeding. The objectives of this 2-year field study were to evaluate effects of winter treatments on performance (green cover, surface hardness, and soil moisture attributes), turfgrass injury resulting from simulated traffic, and spring transition of ‘Tifway’ bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon L. × Cynodon transvaalensis Burtt-Davy) under a 1-day per week irrigation schedule. Treatments included 1) untreated bermudagrass, 2) fall colorant-treated bermudagrass, 3) perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) overseeded bermudagrass, and 4) turf-type annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) overseeded bermudagrass. In both years, treatment differences were detected for percent green cover, soil volumetric water content (VWC), percent visual turfgrass injury, surface hardness, and percent bermudagrass transition. Percent green cover and visual turfgrass injury levels were similar between annual and perennial ryegrass in year 1, whereas loss of green cover and greater turfgrass injury were noted in annual ryegrass during the spring of year 2. Residual benefits of fall colorant applications extended into February of year 1, but dissipated by late December of year 2, likely due to higher rainfall and warmer temperatures, which prevented full bermudagrass shoot dormancy. Overseeding reduced bermudagrass spring transition by up to 50% compared with untreated and colorant-treated plots. Fall colorant treatments did not accelerate bermudagrass transition compared with untreated plots. Results of the study demonstrate that environmental differences from season to season can impact the relative benefits derived from colorant applications, as well as the performance of annual and perennial ryegrass.

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Manuel Chavarria, Benjamin Wherley, James Thomas, Ambika Chandra, and Paul Raymer

As population growth places greater pressures on potable water supplies, nonpotable recycled irrigation water is becoming widely used on turfgrass areas including golf courses, sports fields, parks, and lawns. Nonpotable recycled waters often have elevated salinity levels, and therefore turfgrasses must, increasingly, have good salinity tolerance to persist in these environments. This greenhouse study evaluated 10 commonly used cultivars representing warm-season turfgrass species of bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.), zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.), st. augustinegrass [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze], and seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum Swartz) for their comparative salinity tolerance at electrical conductivity (EC) levels of 2.5 (control), 15, 30, and 45 dS·m–1. Salinity treatments were imposed on the grasses for 10 weeks via subirrigation, followed by a 4-week freshwater recovery period. Attributes, including turf quality, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), canopy firing, and shoot biomass reductions were evaluated before and after salinity stress, as well as after the 4-week freshwater recovery period. Results showed considerable differences in salinity tolerance among the cultivars and species used, with the greatest tolerance to elevated salinity noted within seashore paspalum cultivars and Celebration® bermudagrass. In comparison with growth in 2.5-dS·m–1 control conditions, increased shoot growth and turf quality were noted for many bermudagrass and seashore paspalum cultivars at 15 dS·m–1. However, st. augustinegrass and some zoysiagrass cultivars responded to elevated salinity with decreased growth and turf quality. No cultivars that had been exposed to 30- or 45-dS·m–1 salinity recovered to acceptable levels, although bermudagrass and seashore paspalum recovered to acceptable levels after exposure to 15-dS·m–1 salinity. More severe salinity stress was noted during year 2, which coincided with greater greenhouse temperatures relative to year 1.

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Reagan W. Hejl, Benjamin G. Wherley, James C. Thomas, and Richard H. White

As the need for landscape and golf course water conservation increases, use of low-quality irrigation water combined with deficit irrigation practices is becoming more common. Information is lacking concerning the effects of water quality on bermudagrass response to deficit irrigation, as well as the extent to which plant growth regulators may ameliorate or delay the negative effects of water stress on warm-season turfgrass. The objectives of this 10-week greenhouse study were to 1) characterize growth, quality, and evapotranspiration (ET) of ‘Tifway’ bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon × C. traansvalensis Burt Davy) when irrigated at full (1.0 × ETa) or deficit (0.3 × ETa) levels of actual turfgrass evapotranspiration (ETa) using three irrigation water sources [reverse osmosis (RO), sodic potable, and saline] and 2) determine whether application of trinexapac-ethyl (TE) could mitigate turfgrass quality decline under deficit irrigation. Results indicated that turf irrigated with sodic irrigation water exhibited significantly elevated ETa and shoot growth compared with turf receiving RO or saline irrigation water in both studies. Irrigation water source affected turfgrass quality differently at each irrigation level. TE application improved turfgrass quality and/or delayed firing under soil moisture stress in both studies, with the greatest benefit noted under the less intense conditions of the spring experiment. Elevated canopy temperatures were observed within all deficit irrigation treatments, regardless of water chemistry. Results demonstrate that irrigation water quality may influence turfgrass ET rates. In addition, they suggest that trinexapac-ethyl may offer short-term mitigation of drought stress under deficit irrigation.

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Travis Culpepper, Joseph Young, David T. Montague, Dana Sullivan, and Benjamin Wherley

Lawns must be managed increasingly under less frequent or deficit irrigation. Deficit irrigation can reduce gas exchange, carbon assimilation, and physiological function in both warm- (C4) and cool- (C3) season turfgrasses, yet limited research has compared the physiological response to increasing levels of soil water deficit. The objectives of this greenhouse study were to compare three commonly used transition-zone turfgrasses—bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] (C4), buffalograss [Buchloe dactyloides (Nutt.) Engelm.] (C4), and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) (C3)—and their ability to maintain quality and physiological function under water deficit stress. Visual turf quality, normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), reflective canopy temperature, and gross photosynthesis were evaluated initially near field capacity (FC), and subsequent soil water deficit [48% (moderate) and 33% (severe) of plant-available water] conditions. Bermudagrass and tall fescue had similar quality ratings near FC, although the photosynthetic rate was greater for bermudagrass. Compared with other turfgrasses, bermudagrass maintained greater turf quality, NDVI, and photosynthetic rates further into water deficit stress. Tall fescue quality and photosynthetic rates declined most rapidly in both experiments as a result of the combined heat and drought stress. Buffalograss used less water compared with other species, and maintained consistent turf quality, NDVI, and photosynthetic rates under moderate and severe water deficit. These results support the notion that buffalograss and bermudagrass are better adapted than tall fescue at maintaining functional and ecosystem services with shallow soil depths in landscape situations under imposed summertime water restrictions.

Open access

Baoxin Chang, Benjamin Wherley, Jacqueline Aitkenhead-Peterson, Nadezda Ojeda, Charles Fontanier, and Philip Dwyer

Wetting agents have been widely used in the turf industry for ameliorating hydrophobic soil conditions and improving water use efficiency. However, limited information is available regarding potential benefits of wetting agents on fine textured soil lawns where wettable soils are commonly found, because most prior studies have been conducted in sand-based turf systems. This 2-year field study evaluated the potential for wetting agents to improve turf quality, as well as to reduce runoff losses of water and nutrients from st. augustinegrass [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze] lawns. Over two seasons, turfgrass quality, percent green cover, and soil moisture in plots were evaluated in response to wetting agent and fertilizer treatments. During precipitation events, total runoff volumes were measured, as well as total export of nutrients including NO3-N, NH4-N, total dissolved N, dissolved organic N, dissolved organic C, and PO4-P. No runoff was detected from any treatments when precipitation was less than 13 mm. St. augustinegrass turfgrass quality and soil moisture were slightly improved by wetting agent and fertilizer treatments during the study, but no significant effects of either of the treatments were found on runoff volumes or nutrient exports. Although turf was managed under deficit irrigation levels of 0.3 × reference evapotranspiration, irrigation events were not withheld due to rainfall, and thus, little to no drought stress was observed during the study.

Free access

Kurt Steinke, David R. Chalmers, Richard H. White, Charles H. Fontanier, James C. Thomas, and Benjamin G. Wherley

As a result of increasing demand for potable water, local and national initiatives to conserve municipal water supplies have been implemented. Many of these initiatives focus on reducing irrigation of turfgrass in urban landscapes and may totally ban irrigation during periods of severe water shortage. Proper selection of adapted turfgrass species and cultivars is vital to long-term water conservation initiatives. Turfgrasses that can survive and recover from extended hot and dry periods under limited to no irrigation would best meet water conservation objectives. The present study was conducted to evaluate the recuperative potential of transplanted plugs of 24 commonly grown cultivars of three warm-season turfgrass species after incremental increases in water stress imposed by withholding all water for up to 60 days. A 2-year field study was conducted consisting of eight blocks containing 25 plots each. Each block was planted with one plot each of eight cultivars of bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon sp.), seven cultivars of st. augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum sp.), and nine cultivars of zoysiagrass (five of Zoysia japonica sp. and four of Zoysia matrella sp.). Four blocks were planted on native soil with no restriction to rooting, whereas the other four had an effective root zone of only 10 cm of soil. Cup cutter plugs were collected at predetermined intervals, transported to College Station, TX, replanted, and grown under well-watered conditions. Measurements of the lateral spread of the plugs were taken every 10 to 14 days for the first 60 to 70 days after planting (DAP). The lateral spread of plugs collected after 0 days of summer dry-down (DSD) was greatest for bermudagrass, intermediate for st. augustinegrass, and lowest for zoysiagrass. In most cases there were no consistent differences between cultivars within a species. All species grown on the 10-cm deep root zone were unable to survive the 60-day period without water and died within the first 40 days. For each species, lateral spread was increasingly delayed or reduced with increasing DSD. Although all three species grown on native soil were able to survive and recover from a 60-day period without water, the bermudagrass cultivars had the most rapid recovery rates measured as lateral spread of transplanted plugs.

Open access

Brian M. Schwartz, Wayne W. Hanna, Lisa L. Baxter, Paul L. Raymer, F. Clint Waltz, Alec R. Kowalewski, Ambika Chandra, A. Dennis Genovesi, Benjamin G. Wherley, Grady L. Miller, Susana R. Milla-Lewis, William C. Reynolds, Yanqi Wu, Dennis L. Martin, Justin Q. Moss, Michael P. Kenna, J. Bryan Unruh, Kevin E. Kenworthy, Jing Zhang, and Patricio R. Munoz