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CULTIVARS MATTERS

Q

Scientists have recommended for years to leave grass clippings on turf, claiming they help return nutrition back to the turf. I've never heard whether some grass clippings are better for this than others. Does it make a difference whether I'm mowing a bluegrass or fescue lawn? — North Kingston, R.I.

A

It does help turf to return clippings. As a matter of fact, some studies show that turf receives more nitrogen in through clippings than through supplied fertilizer. More than 25 percent of applied fertilizer nitrogen becomes incorporated into soil organic matter over a two-to-three year period, and can deliver back to the plants at least 2 pounds of nitrogen per year. Couple that with nitrogen in the clippings, which is more readily available, and it's up to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet per year. In general, Kentucky bluegrass clippings contain more nitrogen than tall fescue, which contain more nitrogen than perennial ryegrass. Some cultivars were more efficient than others, but all returned a significant portion of nitrogen back to the plant/soil system. Clippings during May to August generally contain more nitrogen than clippings during September through October (due to increased mowing events earlier in the season). Some researchers feel you can reduce nitrogen applications up to 50 percent by leaving clippings behind when you mow.

TEAMING UP

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I would like to use Primo on my ‘Champion’ bermuda greens; however, we use saline water for irrigation and I'm concerned what the growth regulator will do in combination with the salt water. What do you think? — Reno, Nev.

A

Just like medications and pesticides, there is always the possibility of adverse results from untried combinations. There is a recent study from Clemson University, where two different bermudagrass cultivars were evaluated for their reaction to treatment with trinexapac-ethyl (TE) (Primo) while irrigating with saline water. Researchers looked at ‘Champion’ and ‘TifEagle’'s reactions with and without TE. ‘Champion’ tolerates salinity better than ‘TifEagle,’ with or without TE. And at 8,000 ppm NaCl, TE-treated ‘Champion’ was still able to maintain a playable turf quality. However, ‘TifEagle’ fell below acceptable turf quality ratings. These results won't answer all questions about the combination, as the study looked at only the two cultivars, but it sounds like your ‘Champion’ turf should tolerate some level of salinity and TE. They recommend further study on other bermudagrass cultivars.

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