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Establishment and management of salt-tolerant amenity grasses to reduce urban salinity effect

Poulter, R.E. and Bauer, B. (2010) Establishment and management of salt-tolerant amenity grasses to reduce urban salinity effect. Project Report. Horticulture Australia Limited, Sydney, Australia.

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Abstract

This project built upon the successful outcomes of a previous project (TU02005) by adding to the database of salt tolerance among warm season turfgrass cultivars, through further hydroponic screening trials. Hydroponic screening trials focussed on new cultivars or cultivars that were not possible to cover in the time available under TU02005, including: 11 new cultivars of Paspalum vaginatum; 13 cultivars of Cynodon dactylon; six cultivars of Stenotaphrum secundatum; one accession of Cynodon transvaalensis; 12 Cynodon dactylon x transvaalensis hybrids; two cultivars of Sporobolus virginicus; five cultivars of Zoysia japonica; one cultivar of Z. macrantha, one common form of Z. tenuifolia and one Z. japonica x tenuifolia hybrid.

The relative salinity tolerance of different turfgrasses is quantified in terms of their growth response to increasing levels of salinity, often defined by the salt level that equates to a 50% reduction in shoot yield, or alternatively the threshold salinity.

The most salt tolerant species in these trials were Sporobolus virginicus and Paspalum vaginatum, consistent with the findings from TU02005 (Loch, Poulter et al. 2006). Cynodon dactylon showed the largest range in threshold values with some cultivars highly sensitive to salt, while others were tolerant to levels approaching that of the more halophytic grasses. Coupled with the observational and anecdotal evidence of high drought tolerance, this species and other intermediately tolerant species provide options for site specific situations in which soil salinity is coupled with additional challenges such as shade and high traffic conditions.

By recognising the fact that a salt tolerant grass is not the complete solution to salinity problems, this project has been able to further investigate sustainable long-term establishment and management practices that maximise the ability of the selected grass to survive and grow under a particular set of salinity and usage parameters.

Salt-tolerant turf grasses with potential for special use situations were trialled under field conditions at three sites within the Gold Coast City Council, while three sites, established under TU02005 within the Redland City Council boundaries were monitored for continued grass survival. Several randomised block experiments within Gold Coast City were established to compare the health and longevity of seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum), Manila grass (Zoysia matrella), as well as the more tolerant cultivars of other species like buffalo grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) and green couch (Cynodon dactylon). Whilst scientific results were difficult to achieve in the field situation, where conditions cannot be controlled, these trials provided valuable observational evidence of the likely survival of these species.

Alternatives to laying full sod such as sprigging were investigated, and were found to be more appropriate for areas of low traffic as the establishment time is greater. Trials under controlled and protected conditions successfully achieved a full cover of Paspalum vaginatum from sprigs in a 10 week time frame.

Salt affected sites are often associated with poor soil structure. Part of the research investigated techniques for the alleviation of soil compaction frequently found on saline sites. Various methods of soil de-compaction were investigated on highly compacted heavy clay soil in Redlands City. It was found that the heavy duplex soil of marine clay sediments required the most aggressive of treatments in order to achieve limited short-term effects. Interestingly, a well constructed sports field showed a far greater and longer term response to de-compaction operations, highlighting the importance of appropriate construction in the successful establishment and management of turfgrasses on salt affected sites.

Fertiliser trials in this project determined plant demand for nitrogen (N) to species level. This work produced data that can be used as a guide when fertilising, in order to produce optimal growth and quality in the major turf grass species used in public parkland. An experiment commenced during TU02005 and monitored further in this project, investigated six representative warm-season turfgrasses to determine the optimum maintenance requirements for fertiliser N in south-east Queensland. In doing so, we recognised that optimum level is also related to use and intensity of use, with high profile well-used parks requiring higher maintenance N than low profile parks where maintaining botanical composition at a lower level of turf quality might be acceptable.

Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) seemed to require the greatest N input (300-400 kg N/ha/year), followed by the green couch (Cynodon dactylon) cultivars ‘Wintergreen’ and ‘FLoraTeX’ requiring approximately 300 kg N/ha/year for optimal condition and growth. ‘Sir Walter’ (Stenotaphrum secundatum) and ‘Sea Isle 1’ (Paspalum vaginatum) had a
moderate requirement of approximately 200 kg/ha/year. ‘Aussiblue’ (Digitaria didactyla)maintained optimal growth and quality at 100-200 kg N/ha/year.

A set of guidelines has been prepared to provide various options from the construction and establishment of new grounds, through to the remediation of existing parklands by supporting the growth of endemic grasses. They describe a best management process through which salt affected sites should be assessed, remediated and managed. These guidelines, or Best Management Practices, will be readily available to councils.

Previously, some high salinity sites have been turfed several times over a number of years (and Council budgets) for a 100% failure record. By eliminating this budgetary waste through targeted workable solutions, local authorities will be more amenable to investing appropriate amounts into these areas. In some cases, this will lead to cost savings as well as resulting in better quality turf. In all cases, however, improved turf quality will be of benefit to ratepayers, directly through increased local use of open space in parks and sportsfields and indirectly by attracting tourists and other visitors to the region bringing associated economic benefits. At the same time, environmental degradation and erosion of soil in bare areas will be greatly reduced.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Funders:Funded by voluntary contribution with matched funding from the Australian Government., Horticulture Australia Limited, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Redland City Council, Gold Coast City Council.
Corporate Creators:Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Agri-Science, Horticulture and Forestry Science, Horticulture Australia Limited
Projects:HAL Project TU06006. Establishment and management of salt-tolerant amenity grasses to reduce urban salinity effect.
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:© Horticulture Australia Limited.
Keywords:Salt-tolerant amenity grasses; turfgrasses; urban salinity ; establishment; management; Australia; Paspalum vaginatum; Cynodon dactylon; Stenotaphrum secundatum; Cynodon transvaalensis; Cynodon dactylon x transvaalensis; Sporobolus virginicus; Zoysia japonica; Zoysia macrantha; Zoysia tenuifolia; Zoysia japonica x tenuifolia; couch hybrid; zoysia hybrid; softleaf buffalo grass; zoysia; green couch; seashore paspalum; marine couch; salt couch; Manilla grass.
Subjects:Plant culture > Lawns and turfgrasses > Salinity studies
Plant culture
Deposited On:13 Oct 2011 06:09
Last Modified:05 Apr 2017 06:07

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