For the past 5 years, we have evaluated more than 100 herbaceous perennial groundcovers, including both grasses and grass mixtures, as well as ornamental broadleaf materials, for their ability to establish, suppress weeds, provide aesthetic appeal, and resist pests in various landscape and roadside settings across New York State. By working in cooperation with the NYSDOT, we have developed recommendations for materials that have performed well in difficult, potentially stressful, roadside and landscape settings. We have performed replicated research and demonstration trials that have clearly shown that certain species and cultivars provide effective weed suppression; great aesthetic appeal due to foliar texture, color, or flowering, resist pests and diseases; and require low maintenance over time. In addition, certain materials tolerate high levels of salt (NaCl), simulating roadside salt application exposure, in supplemental greenhouse studies. Materials generally suppressed weeds effectively by forming a dense canopy in a short period of time, and reducing light interception at the soil surface under this dense canopy. Certain groundcovers also appeared to exhibit strong potential allelopathic properties when grown either in field or laboratory settings. The selection of new plant materials for use in low-maintenance landscape settings offers potential to reduce time and maintenance inputs in difficult landscape or roadside settings, with the added benefit of reducing pesticide application in these settings for weed management. Additional studies are currently underway to develop further recommendations for use of warm- and cool-season turfgrasses in these settings.
Leslie A. Weston and Andrew F. Senesac
L.T. Case, H.M. Mathers, and A.F. Senesac
Container production has increased rapidly in many parts of the U.S. over the past 15 years. Container production has been the fastest growing sector in the nursery industry and the growth is expected to continue. Weed growth in container-grown nursery stock is a particularly serious problem, because the nutrients, air, and water available are limited to the volume of the container. The extent of damage caused by weeds is often underestimated and effective control is essential. Various researchers have found that as little as one weed in a small (1 gal) pot affects the growth of a crop. However, even if weeds did not reduce growth, a container plant with weeds is a less marketable product than a weed-free product. Managing weeds in a container nursery involves eliminating weeds and preventing their spread in the nursery, and this usually requires chemical controls. However, chemical controls should never be the only management tools implemented. Maximizing cultural and mechanical controls through proper sanitation and hand weeding are two important means to prevent the spread and regeneration of troublesome weeds. Cultural controls include mulching, irrigation methods (subirrigation), and mix type. Nursery growers estimate that they spend $500 to $4000/acre of containers for manual removal of weeds, depending on weed species being removed. Economic losses due to weed infestations have been estimated at approximately $7000/acre. Reduction of this expense with improved weed control methodologies and understanding weed control would have a significant impact on the industry. Problems associated with herbicide use in container production include proper calibration, herbicide runoff concerns from plastic or gravel (especially when chemicals fall between containers) and the need for multiple applications. As with other crops, off-site movement of pesticides through herbicide leaching, runoff, spray drift, and non-uniformity of application are concerns facing nursery growers. This article reviews some current weed control methods, problems associated with these methods, and possible strategies that could be useful for container nursery growers.
Cécile Bertin, Andy F. Senesac, Frank S. Rossi, Antonio DiTommaso, and Leslie A. Weston
A series of field studies were conducted from 1999 to 2005 in Ithaca, NY, at the Cornell Turfgrass Research Center as part of the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) to evaluate a collection of 78 fine-leaf fescue cultivars (Festuca spp.) for turfgrass quality, seedling vigor, and ability to inhibit the establishment of common annual and perennial weeds. Using these criteria, we evaluated the overall suitability of the cultivars for use in turfgrass settings, as well as their potential weed suppressive or allelopathic ability. The ability of fine-leaf fescue to displace weeds was visually evaluated by density-wise comparison, and several cultivars of the 78 studied consistently established well and provided good to very good suppression (greater than 70%) of common turf weeds when established at the same planting density. Other cultivars provided moderate (between 35% and 70%) to (< 30%) little weed suppression. Greater weed suppressivity is likely associated with the differential ability of fescue cultivars to establish rapidly and to form a dense canopy, as well as potential allelopathic interference. This study was conducted in conjunction with laboratory experiments that revealed that certain fine-leaf fescue cultivars produced phytotoxic root exudates that were released into the rhizosphere over time. Additional field studies conducted in Ithaca showed that cultivars Intrigue, Columbra, and Sandpiper were consistently more weed suppressive than the other fine-leaf fescues evaluated. Although our understanding of the dynamics of production and degradation of fine-leaf fescue root exudates in the rhizosphere is limited, recent field studies also suggest that allelopathic interference as well as the ability to rapidly establish influence subsequent weed infestation in fine-leaf fescue stands. From a more practical standpoint, certain fine-leaf fescue cultivars, including Intrigue, Columbra, Sandpiper, and Reliant II, could be recommended for use in low-maintenance turf settings in the northeastern United States due to their aesthetic appeal and their limited weed infestation in circumstances where herbicides are not applied.