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Amy L. Neigebauer, Garald L. Horst, Donald H. Steinegger, and Greg L. Davis

Significant research has been conducted on wildflower sod, but the reasoning behind the production system methods is not clear. The purpose of this research was to determine the influence of mowing height on the subsequent leaf growth and root biomass distribution in a wildflower sod production system. Rudbeckia hirta was grown in sand in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes in simulating field conditions. Plants were either not mowed (control) or hand-clipped to 5.1, 7.6, or 10.2 cm to simulate mowing. After the initial mowing, plants were mowed at ≈7-day intervals. Total root depth, number of root axes in the top 2.5 cm, root: shoot ratio, total root dry weight, and root dry weight at depths of 0.0-2.5, 2.5-21.7, 21.7-40.8, and 40.8-60.0 cm were measured at the end of the study. Comparing the total root dry weight of all segments indicates that mowing significantly reduces root biomass. As mowing height increased, the depth of longest root increased linearly. Plants not mowed or plants mowed to 10.2 cm produced significantly more root axes in the top 2.5 cm of sand than did mowing heights of 5.1 or 7.6 cm. Root dry weight in the top 2.5 cm was considerably greater in nonmowed plants. Increased root axes in sod with higher mowing heights indicated a greater root density, which may also increase wildflower sod stability.

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Amy L. Neigebauer, Greg L. Davis, Garald L. Horst, and Donald H. Steinegger

Field-grown wildflower sod has been in production for several years, but as with any crop management system, the reasoning behind the methods is not always known. One characteristic of wildflower sod production that has been debated is the height at which the plant is maintained. The above-ground shoot growth is managed to reduce the damage to plants when undercut and to allow for ease of shipping. Growers typically use a height of 7.6 cm because this is the highest height allowed by many mowers. Also, root production is the key to forming a sod that will hold together well and withstand the rigors of undercutting, lifting, storage, and transplanting. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of cutting height on the plant's ability to produce a sod. Rudbeckia hirta L. was used as a model wildflower species and was seeded into polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes 10.2 cm in diameter with a depth of 60 cm to simulate a field situation. To characterize shoot and root growth, during a period of 12 weeks plants either received no clipping or continuous clipping at heights of 5.1, 7.6, and 10.2 cm. Root dry weights were measured at depths of 0-2.54, 2.54-21.7, 21.7-40.8, and 40.8--60.0 cm. Leaf area measurements of the clippings were recorded to determine productivity. Results indicated that clipping the shoots of Rudbeckia hirta caused a decrease in root biomass.