Total fertilizer nutrients needed by turfgrasses assuming all clippings
are removed may be calculated by substracting the soil levels reported from
the total needed. For example, a bermudagrass turf on a soil with 10 ppm
(@ .5 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.) phosphorus needs an additional 2 pounds per
1,000 sq. ft. of phosphorus during the growing season. Likewise, if the
soil was reported to contain 120 ppm (5.5 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.) potassium,
an additional 2.2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. would be needed during the growing
season. However, if the soil was reported to contain 175 ppm or more potassium,
additional potassium would not be needed.
To effectively use this information, soil tests need to be conducted at least on an annual basis. Intensively managed turf areas such as golf greens, need semi-annual soil tests. Soil tests not only identify nutrient deficiencies, but they can also show an accumulation of nutrients.
For example, phosphorus tends to accumulate following repeated applications of phosphorus containing fertilizers. Even though phosphorus is removed by turfgrasses, it is also released to the soil from minerals and organic matter. Thus, applications of phosphorus may lead to excessive levels of the nutrients. Soil tests could confirm the presence of these excessive phosphorus levels.
Soil SalinitySoils which have high enough levels of soluble salts to effect plant growth are classified as saline soils. Saline soils may be recognized by white crusts on high spots, stunted plants or spotty stands of grass, but these symptoms are not always obvious. In South Texas and throughout the southwestern U.S., saline soils are a significant problem on irrigated sites. In most cases, these problems are increased by poor quality irrigation water. Generally, warm season turfgrasses are quite tolerant to soluble salts. Bermudagrass, for example, tolerates 4,500 ppm or more soluble salts in the soil without apparent injury; whereas, cool season grasses such as tall fescue may be severely injured by only 2,500 ppm soluble salts. Even within turfgrass species, significant differences are found in tolerance to salts. For example, Santa Ana bermudagrass tolerates much higher salt levels than common bermudagrass. However, plant response to soluble salts is greatly influenced by environmental conditions and mangement practices.
Salts affect plants both directly and indirectly. Direct effects include the accumulation of specific salts (sodium, chlorine, boron, etc.) within the plant to toxic levels and the burning of foliage by salt residues from sprinkler irrigation. These effects are most common on woody and herbaceous plants.
Indirect effects of salts on plants include desiccation, deterioration
of soil physical conditions and an imbalance of plant nutrients. Grasses
are generally injured by one or more of these indirect effects.
The first visible symptom of salt injury is stunted appearing plants - reduced growth rate, short leaf blades and short internodes. In grasses, leaf growth decreases linearly with increasing salt levels after reaching a threshold level; while root growth usually increases at moderate salt levels, then decreases sharply as salinity increases. A typical growth response of bermudagrass to increasing salinity would appear as follows:
How Salt Problems Develop. Salt problems usually develop because of poor drainage, high ground water tables and poor quality (salty) irrigation water. Where soils are poorly drained because of an impermeable layer or impermeable topsoil, salts accumulate in the surface soil. Where high ground water tables are present, salts move upward with the water through the finer
capillary pores and accumulate as water evaporates. In clay soils, salts
have been known to accumulate 20 to 30 feet above a water table over a long
period of time.
Most salt problems develop, however, directly from salts added by the irrigation water. This problem usually develops over a long period of time because large amounts of salt must accumulate before salts affect the growth of grasses. The amounts of salt added to a soil by irrigation waters over a period of years when 36 inches of water are applied per acre per year are shown in the following table.
Water containing 735 ppm soluble salts is considered good quality irrigation water, yet in several years enough salt would be added to affect most plants. Thus, salts must be removed by leaching before they accumulate and become a problem.
Management of Saline Soils. Proper irrigation management (occasional leaching) and adequate drainage are essential to prevent salinity problems. The only way to remove salts from the soil is by leaching them below the rootzone.
In areas with adequate rainfall, leaching may not be required. But, in arid climates periodic leaching by applying excessive irrigation water is necessary to prevent salinity problems. Where restrictive soil layers prevent the downward movement of water, lateral tile drains installed directly above this layer are needed.
To leach salts below the rootzone, "extra" water is needed beyond that required to "wet" the rootzone. The amount of the "extra" water needed to leach salts increases with turfgrass sensitivity and with the salt content of the water. The percentage "extra" water can be approximated from the following table:
To effectively use the approximation of "extra" water needed
for leaching salts, the turf manager must know the salt content of the water
and the amount of water needed to wet the rootzone. The later value can
be estimated from the following table:
For example, a tall fescue lawn growing on a sandy loam soil irrigated
with water containing 2,000 ppm soluble salts would need the following amount
of water to leach salts below a 6 inch deep rootzone.
From the above table, 12 inches of a sandy loam soil would hold approximately 1.5 inches of available water following irrigation. During the summer this amount of water would be gone in 5 to 6 days. To effectively leach salts below the 12 inch rootzone, 1.5 inch of water plus 23% of 1.5 inch, or 1.85 inch, should be applied during the next irrigation. If the lawn is irrigated every other day, 0.62 inches of water is needed (.5 inch replacement water plus 0.12 inch (23%) of "extra" water.
Such a watering practice would be "wasteful" of water, but there are no other means of removing salts from the rootzone during periods of limited rainfall.
Where restrictive layers develop in the rootzone, cultivation or aeration may be required before attempting to leach salts through the soil. Deep-tine aeration is an effective way to improve water movement through a layer in the top 10 to 12 inches of the rootzone. Such a procedure may need to be repeated several times each year to prevent salt problems.
When sodium constitutes a significant amount of the salts found in soil or in the irrigation water, additions of gypsum or sulfur may be necessary. The calcium in gypsum, or in the gypsum produced by the addition of sulfur, repalces the sodium on the soil particles and allows water to move the sodium below the rootzone. Soil tests will indicate the need for amendments such as gypsum and sulfur.
Fertilizer Requirements (Example)Bermudagrass Sports Field
Fertilizer Recommendation: Fertilizer Sources: Amounts Needed:
Since the 15-5-10 fertilizer is the only source of P & K on hand, the 1.5 lbs. of P and 4.0 lbs. of K recommended must be provided by that source. Since P & K are in a 1 to 2 ratio in the 15-5-10 fertilizer, 2 lbs. of P must be applied to 4 lbs. of K.
In addition to 4 lbs. K and 2 lbs. P, 40 lbs. of 15-5-10 fertilizer also
provides 6 lbs. of N (40 x 15/100). Therefore, additional nitrogen is not
needed to meet the fertilizer recommendation. Applications of 10 lbs. 15-5-10
fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. in March, June, August and October would provide
1.5, .5 and 1.0 lbs. of N, P and K per 1,000 sq. ft. per application. Although
that schedule was not exactly meet the recommendations made for a bermudagrass
athletic field, it would be satisfactory if at least 50% of the nitrogen
in the 15-5-10 fertilizer was slow release.
Fertilizer Requirements (cont.)
Assume the same set of conditions with the folowwing fertilizer sources available:
Remember, the 18-46-0 fertilizer provides 18% nitrogen in addition of
46% phosphorus. Thus, 3.3 lbs. of 18-46-0 fertilizer provides 0.6 lbs.
(3.3 x 18/100) of nitrogen. The remaining nitrogen (6-0.6), or 5.4 lbs.,
must be provided by sulfur coated urea.
These amounts (3.3 lbs. of 18-46-0, 16.9 lbs. SCU and 6.7 lbs. of potash)
are needed per 1,000 sq. ft. per year. To determine the total amount needed
for the athletic fields, multiply these numbers by the number of 1,000 sq.
ft. to be fertilized. For 60,000 sqq. ft. (the typical area of a football
field), multiply those numbers by 60.
Therefore, for a typical football field, you would purchase 200 lbs.
of 18-48-0, 1,000 lbs. of sulfur coated urea and 400 lbs. of muriate of
potash to meet the 6.1-5.40 fertilizer recommendation.
Soil acidity is determined by a pH meter that measures the hydrogen ion concentration in the soil solution. The hydrogen row concentration is expressed in pH units with 5 being strongly acid, 7 being neutral and 8.2 being strongly alkaline. Each pH unit decrease below 7 represents a 10-fold increase in hydrogen concentration, or acidity.
Strongly acid soils reduce the effectiveness of some fertilizer nutrients,
inhibit microbial activity, inhibit the decomposition of thatch and reduce
the effectiveness of some herbicides. The following table shows the reduction
in nutrient recovery by turfgrasses as soil acidity increases (or soil pH
Liming Soils to Correct Soil Acidity. The amount of limestone CaCO3)
needed to neutralize soil acidity is based on soil pH and soil texture.
In general, the amount of limestone needed increases as soil pH decreases
and as soil texture changes from sands to loams to clays. The following
table can be used as a guideline to estiamte the pounds of limestone needed
per 1,000 sq. ft. of turf:
Benefits of Liming Acid Soils
- Increases soil pH
- Increases fertilizer use efficiency
- Increases microbial activity
- Increases thatch decomposition
- Enhances effectiveness of some herbicides, especially triazines such as atrazine and metribuzin