Best Management Practices for Establishment of Salt-Tolerant Grasses on Roadsides

Principal Investigator:

Eric Watkins, Assistant Professor, Horticultural Science


Project Summary:

We are nearing the end of an important research project funded by the Local Road Research Board in 2010 (Developing Salt-Tolerant Sod Mixtures for use as Roadside Turf in Minnesota). The project has identified a number of turfgrasses that can be used on roadsides in Minnesota where salt applications limit typical turf growth. We have also begun testing of optimized mixtures of these grasses that could be utilized by public officials in both seeding and sodding operations. The Sod Quality Assurance program, a cooperative effort of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, along with MnDOT, the Minnesota Turf Association, and the University of Minnesota has resulted in increased availability of salt-tolerant sod; in fact, sod fields planted in 2012 included cultivars identified in our current project (the salt-tolerant grass mixtures are referred to as MNST). During the past year, environmental conditions at certain times have not been conducive to proper sod and seed establishment of MNST along roadsides. This could be due to any number of factors including heat, drought, lack of nutrients, insufficient soil preparation, poor soil quality, or soil compaction. We have heard from several stakeholders that are concerned about the future of the salt-tolerant sod program due to some installation failures. In order to build on our current research results, we propose a two-phase research project to address the concerns of these stakeholders. During the first phase of the proposed research we would work with MnDOT, contractors, and sod growers to identify roadside sites that have been planted with previous and current versions of the recommended MNST mix (both sod and seed installations). These assessments will help us identify those practices that lead to a successful establishment and those conditions that result in failures. Then, informed by our findings in the first phase of the project, we would commence with research trials to answer important questions about roadside turf establishment practices. Our results will help provide contractors and stakeholders with guidelines on best management practices before, during, and after the installations of MNST sod or seed, which will be both environmentally and economically beneficial.


Project Details:

  • Start date: 05/2013
  • Project Status: Completed
  • Research Area: Environment and Energy
  • Topics: Environment