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Xunzhong Zhang, R.E. Schmidt, E.H. Ervin and S. Doak

Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis palustris Huds.) is an extensively used cool-season grass for fine turf areas such as golf course putting greens, but suffers from poor summer stress tolerance. These studies were conducted to investigate the influences of natural plant growth regulators (NPGR) and Fe on creeping bentgrass photochemical activity (PA), antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity, root growth and leaf color under two fertilization regimes. The bentgrass was maintained in well-watered field conditions or water-stressed glasshouse conditions. A mature bentgrass was treated monthly during the field season with seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum Jol.) extract (SWE) at 50 mg·m-2 or humic acid (HA) at 150 mg·m-2 or in combination with or without FeSO4 at 520 mg·m-2 and grown under a low or a high fertilization regime. Foliar application of SWE + Fe increased PA (14% to 15%), while applications of SWE + HA or SWE + HA + Fe increased SOD activity (49% to 114%) of creeping bentgrass in Summer 1997 and Summer 1998. There was no significant fertilization × NPGR interaction for PA and SOD activity. Bentgrass PA was increased by 13% to 46% when treated with NPGR with or without Fe compared to the control measured in May. The addition of Fe with each NPGR application improved fall and winter leaf color. All NPGR and Fe treatments increased root mass (17% to 29%) in Aug. 1997 and 1998, except HA alone in 1998. Under sustained low soil moisture (-0.5 MPa) conditions, application of NPGR with or without Fe increased PA and SOD activity. The data indicate that SWE and HA enhance the physiological function of `Southshore' creeping bentgrass, resulting in improved root growth regardless of low or high fertilization regime. However, addition of Fe to these NPGR served primarily to improve late season leaf color. The results suggest that, in addition to maintaining adequate plant-available nutrients, applications of natural PGRs, such as SWE and HA, prior to and during summer abiotic stresses would be beneficial.