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Marco Volterrani, Simone Magni, Monica Gaetani and Filippo Lulli

The stoloniferous-rhizomatous growth habit of bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] is a key feature for fast turf establishment and effective recovery from wear and divots. Trinexapac-ethyl (TE) is a plant growth regulator used extensively to reduce the need for mowing. However, vertical growth suppression of vertical growth has the potential to reduce horizontal growth. Furthermore, side effects reported on several physiological functions could affect node ability to generate new plants. In a greenhouse trial, ‘Tifway’ hybrid bermudagrass (C. dactylon × C. transvaalensis Burtt Davy) grown in pots was treated with increasing rates of TE (untreated control, 0.015, 0.075, 0.150, and 0.300 g·m−2). The treatment effects on the number of stolons produced and their linear growth rate, node production, node vitality, and daughter plant characteristics were investigated. The effects of growth inhibition because of TE application on nodes and daughter plants and the relative duration were also assessed. Starting from 2 weeks after treatment (2 WAT), TE application resulted in reductions of stolon length of 24.6% and 52.9% compared with the untreated control, while at 3 and 4 WAT only 0.150 and 0.300 g·m−2 application rates produced significant reductions in stolon length with values of 37.1% and 52.9% at 3 WAT and of 34.1% and 48.3% at 4 WAT, respectively. The number of nodes per stolon was unaffected by treatments. No effect was observed in node vitality but daughter plants showed a postinhibition growth enhancement when nodes were excised at 4 WAT. TE application at the labeled rate did not affect the number of stolons produced by ‘Tifway’ hybrid bermudagrass compared with untreated control, while a reduction in stolon growth rate was recorded only at 2 WAT. Application at higher rates reduced stolon growth rate longer than labeled rate but not stolon production. None of the treatments reduced the number of vital nodes. Application rates higher than labeled rate produced a postinhibition growth enhancement in plants that originated from nodes excised at 4 WAT.

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Marco Volterrani, Nicola Grossi, Monica Gaetani, Lisa Caturegli, Aimila-Eleni Nikolopoulou, Filippo Lulli and Simone Magni

Vegetatively propagated warm-season turfgrasses are established with methods that rely on large quantities of propagation material and subsequent plant growth support. The precision seeding adopted for some seed propagated crops controls the depth and spacing at which seeds are placed in the soil. Sprigs that are reduced in length could potentially be suitable for existing machinery, and precision planting could enhance the efficiency of use of the propagation material. The aim of the present study was to carry out a preliminary screening on products known to act as plant growth regulators to explore their potential use for controlling stolon development and elongation of ‘Patriot’ hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon × C. transvaalensis) grown in pots for propagation purposes. Trinexapac-ethyl (TE), chlormequat chloride (CM), paclobutrazol (PB), propiconazole (PPC), diquat (DQ), flazasulfuron (FS), glyphosate (GP), ethephon (EP), and gibberellic acid (GA) were applied to pot-grown ‘Patriot’ hybrid bermudagrass turf in eight different application rates, ranging for each product from the minimum expected effective rate to a potentially harmful rate. Of the tested treatments, TE applied at 2.0 kg·ha−1 and PB applied at 1.0 kg·ha−1 reduced stolon and internode length without causing a reduction in the stolon number or turf quality. PPC was also effective in reducing stolon length, but the effect on internode length was not statistically significant. Stolon length was unaffected by CM, while DQ and GP induced stolon elongation. FS, EP, and GA affected stolon length without a consistent relation between stolon length and application rate. The chemical suppression of stolon elongation in pot-grown ‘Patriot’ hybrid bermudagrass can contribute to controlling sprig size for use with precision seeding machinery.

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Luisa Martelloni, Lisa Caturegli, Christian Frasconi, Monica Gaetani, Nicola Grossi, Simone Magni, Andrea Peruzzi, Michel Pirchio, Michele Raffaelli, Marco Volterrani and Marco Fontanelli

Flaming could be an alternative to the use of chemical herbicides for controlling weeds in turfgrass. In fact, the European Union has stipulated that chemical herbicides should be minimized or prohibited in public parks and gardens, sports and recreational areas, school gardens, and children’s playgrounds. The aim of this research was to test different doses of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to find the optimal flaming dose that keeps a ‘Patriot’ hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon × Cynodon transvaalensis) turf free of weeds during spring green-up, but also avoids damaging the grass. Five LPG doses (0, 29, 48, 71, and 100 kg·ha–1) were applied in a broadcast manner over the turf experimental units using a self-propelled flaming machine. This equipment is commercially available and usable by turfgrass managers. Treatments were applied three times during the spring to allow the maximum removal of weeds from the turfgrass. Data on weed coverage, density, biomass, and turfgrass green-up were collected and analyzed. Results showed that 3 weeks after the last flaming, the greatest LPG doses used (i.e., 71 and 100 kg·ha–1) ensured the least amount of weeds (range, 5–16 weeds/m2) of low weight (range, 7–60 g·m–2) and a low weed cover percentage (range, 1% to 5%), whereas the green turfgrass coverage was high (range, 82% to 94%). At the end of the experiment, the main weed species were horseweed (Conyza canadensis), field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), narrow-leaved aster (Aster squamatus), and black medic (Medicago lupulina). Flame weed control is a promising technique to conduct weed control in turfgrass. Further studies could be conducted to investigate the use of flaming in other species of warm-season turfgrasses.

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Michel Pirchio, Marco Fontanelli, Christian Frasconi, Luisa Martelloni, Michele Raffaelli, Andrea Peruzzi, Lisa Caturegli, Monica Gaetani, Simone Magni, Marco Volterrani and Nicola Grossi

High-quality sports turfs often require low mowing and frequent maintenance. Sports turfs often consist of hard-to-mow warm season turfgrasses, such as zoysiagrass (Zoysia sp.) or bermudagrass (Cynodon sp.). Although autonomous mowers have several advantages over manually operated mowers, they are not designed to mow lower than 2.0 cm and are consequently not used on high-quality sports turfs. All autonomous mowers are only equipped with rotary mowing devices and do not perform clipping removal. An ordinary autonomous mower was modified to obtain a prototype autonomous mower cutting at a low height. The prototype autonomous mower was tested on a manila grass (Zoysia matrella) turf and compared its performance in terms of turf quality and energy consumption with an ordinary autonomous mower and with a gasoline reel mower. A three-way factor experimental design with three replications was adopted. Factor A consisted of four nitrogen rates (0, 50, 100, and 150 kg·ha−1), factor B consisted of two mowing systems (autonomous mower vs. walk-behind gasoline reel mower with no clipping removal), and factor C consisted of two mowing heights (1.2 and 3.6 cm). Prototype autonomous mower performed mowing at 1.2-cm mowing height whereas ordinary autonomous mower mowed at 3.6-cm mowing height. The interaction between the mowing system and mowing height showed that the turf quality was higher when the turf was mowed by the autonomous mower and at 1.2 cm than at 3.6 cm. Autonomous mowing not only reduced the mowing quality, but also reduced the leaf width. Lower mowing height induced thinner leaves. Nitrogen fertilization not only increased the overall turf quality, reduced weed cover percentage, but also reduced mowing quality. Autonomous mowers also had a lower energy consumption if compared with the reel mower (1.86 vs. 5.37 kWh/week at 1.2-cm mowing height and 1.79 vs. 2.32 kWh/week at 3.6-cm mowing height, respectively). These results show that autonomous mowers can perform low mowing even on tough-to-mow turfgrass species. They could also be used on high-quality sports turfs, thus saving time as well as reducing noise and pollution.

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Marco Fontanelli, Michel Pirchio, Christian Frasconi, Luisa Martelloni, Michele Raffaelli, Andrea Peruzzi, Nicola Grossi, Lisa Caturegli, Simone Magni, Monica Gaetani and Marco Volterrani

Turfgrass species can be classified into two main groups: cool-season and warm-season species. Warm-season species are more suited to a Mediterranean climate. Transplanting is a possible method to convert a cool-season to a warm-season turfgrass in untilled soil. It generally requires the chemical desiccation of the cool-season turfgrass. However, alternative physical methods, like flaming and steaming, are also available. This paper compares flaming, steaming, and herbicide application to desiccate cool-season turfgrass, for conversion to hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon x C. transvaalensis) in untilled soil, using transplanting. Two prototype machines were used, a self-propelled steaming machine and a tractor-mounted liquefied petroleum gas flaming machine. Treatments compared in this work were two flaming treatments and two steaming treatments performed at four different doses together with two chemical treatments with glufosinate-ammonium herbicide applications. The cool-season turfgrass species were tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). The desiccation effect of the various treatments on cool-season turf was assessed by photographic survey 15 days after treatment. The percentage cover of hybrid bermudagrass was visually assessed at 43 weeks after planting. Steaming and flaming effects on both parameters were described by logistic curves. The highest doses of steaming and flaming almost completely desiccated cool-season turf, and similar hybrid bermudagrass cover was established by both the methods as the chemical application (50% to 60%). Thus both flaming and steaming may be considered as valid alternatives to herbicides aimed at turf conversion.

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Nicola Grossi, Marco Fontanelli, Elisa Garramone, Andrea Peruzzi, Michele Raffaelli, Michel Pirchio, Luisa Martelloni, Christian Frasconi, Lisa Caturegli, Monica Gaetani, Simone Magni, J. Scott McElroy and Marco Volterrani

Battery-powered autonomous mowers are designed to reduce the need of labor for lawn mowing compared with traditional endothermic engine mowers and at the same time to abate local emissions and noise. The aim of this research was to compare autonomous mower with traditional rotary mower on a tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) lawn under different nitrogen (N) rates. A two-way factor experimental design with three replications was adopted. In the study, four N rates (0, 50, 100, and 150 kg·ha−1) and two mowing systems (autonomous mower vs. gasoline-powered walk-behind rotary mower equipped for mulching) were used. As expected, N fertilization increased turf quality. At the end of the trial, the autonomous mower increased turf density (3.2 shoots/cm2) compared with the rotary mower (2.1 shoots/cm2) and decreased average leaf width (2.1 mm) compared with the rotary mower (2.7 mm). Increased density and decreased leaf width with autonomous mowing yielded higher quality turf (7.3) compared with the rotary mower (6.4) and a lower weed incidence (6% and 9% cover for autonomous mower and rotary mower, respectively). Disease incidence and mowing quality were unaffected by the mowing system. The autonomous mower working time was set to 10 hours per day (≈7.8 hours for mowing and 2.2 hours for recharging) for a surface of 1296 m2. The traditional rotary mower working time for the same surface was 1.02 hours per week. The estimated primary energy consumption for autonomous mower was about 4.80 kWh/week compared with 12.60 kWh/week for gasoline-powered rotary mowing. Based on turf quality aspects and energy consumption, the use of autonomous mowers could be a promising alternative to traditional mowers.