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  Eur.J.Hortic.Sci. 81 (1) 27-36 | DOI: 10.17660/eJHS.2016/81.1.4
ISSN 1611-4426 print and 1611-4434 online | © ISHS 2016 | European Journal of Horticultural Science | Original article

Performance of various cool-season turfgrasses as influenced by simulated traffic in northeastern Italy

C. Pornaro1, E. Barolo2, F. Rimi1,3, S. Macolino1 and M. Richardson4
1Department of Agronomy Food Natural Resources Animals and Environment, University of Padova, Italy
2Agricultural Research Council (CRA SCS), Verona, Italy
3Sakata Seed America, Inc., Morgan Hill, CA, USA
4Department of Horticulture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, USA

Warm-season grasses are known to be more wear tolerant than cool-season grasses, but in northern Italy the latter are generally preferred for ornamental turfgrasses and athletics fields. The Po River valley, in the North of Italy, is a typical transition zone where species and cultivar selection play a very important role in establishing successful turfgrasses with high stress tolerance, including foot traffic. The aim of this research was to evaluate the traffic tolerance and adaptation of 25 cultivars of three cool-season turfgrass species to transitional growing conditions of Italy. A study was conducted over a two-year period at the experimental farm of Padova University in Legnaro. The species studied were tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum), kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). Simulated traffic was applied using a Brinkman traffic simulator at a level equivalent to one soccer game per week. Turfgrass quality and density were assessed every week using a 1 to 9 visual scale during traffic treatments each year. Furthermore, turfgrass canopy height was measured weekly for calculating daily vertical growth rate (mm d-1) in spring, summer, and autumn. Trafficked plots exhibited lower quality than non-trafficked, primarily as a result of decline in turf density. The effect of traffic on density was more evident in the second year wherein all species exhibited ratings lower than 5.0. Traffic did not affect turf growth for perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, while a drastic decrease in growth rate in the second year of study was observed for kentucky bluegrass. Perennial ryegrass had lower density than tall fescue and kentucky bluegrass, especially in summer and autumn of the first year when it showed ratings lower than 6.0. Different responses occurred among kentucky bluegrass cultivars, while perennial ryegrass and tall fescue cultivars responded similarly. Results indicated a high quality and environmental adaptability of ‘Rhambler SRP’ tall fescue. Among kentucky bluegrass cultivars, ‘Mystere’ displayed the best wear tolerance with a decrease of density from 5.5 to 4.3 only during the second year. Perennial ryegrass cultivars were similarly affected by traffic, except for ‘Yorktown III’ which showed the lower performance in both traffic and non-traffic conditions reaching a turf density rating lower than 5.0 in both years of study.

Keywords cultivar, wear tolerance, transition zone, turf density, turf quality, turf vertical growth

Significance of this study

What is already known on this subject?

  • Perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and kentucky bluegrass are the most used species for establishing sports fields in the European transition zones. However, the wear tolerance of kentucky bluegrass when compared with perennial ryegrass and tall fescue is reported by different authors with contrasting results. Some studies reported that perennial ryegrass has better wear tolerance than kentucky bluegrass, while others demonstrated that it has similar or lower compaction tolerance.
What are the new findings?
  • Results demonstrated that kentucky bluegrass cultivars responded differently to traffic conditions with ‘Mystery’ displaying the best wear tolerance. In general, perennial ryegrass cultivars performed poorly during warmer months with ‘Yorktown III’ being the worst performing. Among tall fescue cultivars, ‘Rhambler SRP’ showed a high quality and environmental adaptability.
What is the expected impact on horticulture?
  • The use of wear tolerant cultivars is the best way to reduce the maintenance costs of sports turf areas. Findings from this study will help turfgrass managers in selecting cultivars and improving playability of sport surfaces in northern Italy.

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Received: 13 July 2015 | Revised: 24 August 2015 | Accepted: 17 November 2015 | Published: 22 February 2016 | Available online: 22 February 2016

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