Encourage Root Growth for Enhancing Turf Quality

Newsletter, October 2018

Nurturing roots on intensely managed turf systems poses challenges for turf managers as they strive to maintain high standards. With today’s high expectations from customers, turf managers need to deal with manipulating environmental conditions to produce desired results. This is like a plant-physiological roller coaster. The turfgrass is required to grow in conditions that are less than desirable in certain situations; this imposes a tremendous amount of stress on the plant, thus reducing overall root growth and health.

There are many elements that hinder root growth that turf managers face and must overcome to maintain a healthy stand of turf:

  • Soil pH – too alkaline or acid conditions causes nutrient imbalances and lead to decrease root growth. 
  • Soil Moisture (VWC) – monitoring the volumetric water content and acknowledging evapotranspiration rates (ET) help prevent soil moisture extremes.
  • Light intensity and shade potential – shade limits photosynthesis and has a direct effect on the plant’s ability to produce the energy needed for stimulating root growth.
  • Soil oxygen levels (ability to exchange gases freely) – increasing compaction and limiting free airflow causes an accumulation of toxic gases that are detrimental to rooting systems. 
  • Mowing heights (HOC) – Increasing mowing heights often has a positive effect on root growth; avoid lowering HOC during periods of stress and limited growth potential.

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  • Monitoring for pests - Nematodes, fungal pathogens and insects discourage a healthy root system and must be monitored at all times.
  • Proper nutrition – As illustrated in Liebig’s Law, limiting nutrients inherently has an effect on overall plant health.

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Although cultural practices on turf systems are important for increasing root mass, proper plant nutritional programs play a major role in root formation and health. However, excess nitrogen applications have been known to discourage rooting. Adequate levels of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and iron, will encourage root growth in most situations. A balanced nutrition is always the best method, especially once tissue samples are attained and a programmatic approach is developed for delivering the proper nutrients.

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Roots are notoriously overlooked at the expense of playability or aesthetics; however, continuing to ignore root health and growth leads to the inability to withstand abiotic and biotic extremes. A long term cultivation plan and well balanced nutritional program is desired for sustaining pristine conditions for years to come and keeping customers happy.

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Neil Mayberry
Neil Mayberry
Regional Market Development Manager