Turf loss from freezing injury results in costly re-establishment, especially with turfgrasses such as perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) having poor low-temperature hardiness. Studies are limited as to the influence of N and K on cold tolerance during dehardening periods in late winter when grasses are most susceptible to freezing injury. The objective of this study was to evaluate perennial ryegrass low temperature hardiness during deacclimation in response to N and K and associated effects on crown hydration, median killing temperature (LT50), shoot growth rate, tissue K concentration, soil exchangeable K, and low temperature disease. Treatments included five rate levels of N (49, 147, 245, 343, and 441 kg·ha-1·yr-1) in all factorial combinations with 3 rate levels of K (49, 245, and 441 kg·ha-1·yr-1). Low temperature tolerance was assessed using whole plant survival and electrolyte leakage (EL). Interactions between N and K were detected for all field measurements. The effects of N and K on survival LT50 were detected only during late winter periods in February 2004, N and K differences were lost by March. Late winter cold survival was negatively correlated with crown moisture, growth rate, and tissue K. Tissue K concentrations ranged from 28.6 to 35.9 g·kg–1 DM while soil K ranged from 121 to 261 mg·kg–1. Soil extractable K was not correlated with tissue K. Survival and EL LT50 were uncorrelated due to N and K interaction. Survival LT50 ranged from –9.0 to –13.6 °C. Maximum cold hardiness occurred when low to moderate N (49 to 147 kg·ha-1·yr-1) was applied with medium-high to high levels of K (245 to 441 kg·ha-1·yr-1), which corresponded to soil exchangeable K levels ranging from 200 to 260 mg·kg–1. Alternatively, similar K fertilization and soil K levels combined with high rates of N (343 and 441 kg·ha-1·yr-1) increased freeze stress and low temperature fungi (Typhula incarnata). At N rates routinely applied to perennial ryegrass, higher soil extractable K beyond those levels currently recommended for optimum shoot growth could provide some benefit in enhancing cold hardiness. Late fall applied N did not appear to increase the potential for winter injury.
J.S. Ebdon, R.A. Gagne and R.C. Manley
Turf loss from freezing injury results in costly reestablishment, especially with turfgrasses such as perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) having poor low-temperature tolerance. However, no studies have been conducted to investigate the relative importance of low-temperature tolerance and its contribution to turfgrass quality (performance) in northern climates. The objective of this research was to compare critical freezing thresholds (LT50) of 10 perennial ryegrass cultivars representing contrasting turf-quality types (five high- and five low-performance cultivars). Cultivar selection was based on turfgrass quality ranking (top and bottom five) from the 1997 National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) trial conducted at the Maine (Orono) location. Ten freeze-stress temperatures (-3 to -21 °C) and a nonfrozen control (5 °C) were applied to 5-month-old plants. Acclimated (AC) plant material maintained in an unheated polyhouse during the fall and winter in Massachusetts was compared to nonacclimated (NA) plant material (grown at 18 °C minimum in a greenhouse). Low-temperature tolerance was assessed using whole-plant survival and electrolyte leakage (EL). Estimates of LT50 were derived from fitted EL and survival curves using nonlinear regression. High-performance cultivars were able to tolerate significantly lower freeze-stress temperatures indicated by less EL and greater survival compared to low-performance cultivars. The EL method had good predictive capability for low-temperature survival. Acclimated tissues and high-performance cultivars had significantly flatter EL curves and lower mortality rates. These results underscore the importance of selecting cold-tolerant perennial ryegrass genotypes for adaptation to northern climates.