Drought Resistance Response of Tall Fescue Established in Disturbed Urban Soils Utilizing Biosolids
Boyd, Adam Philip
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Urban soils are typically degraded due to land disturbance. The poor quality physical and chemical properties of the soil can benefit from application of organic amendments. Local sources of such amendments are biosolids, which are treated domestic wastewater sludges. The objective of this experiment was to compare effects of various high quality biosolids-based soil amendments with synthetic fertilizer on the growth and quality of tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus) under two different soil moisture regimes. The research site was a disturbed soil at the Virginia Tech Turfgrass Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia. The experimental design was a split plot with irrigation regime as the main factor and soil amendments as the split factor. All treatments were arranged in four randomized complete blocks. The study was established in late summer 2013. Soil amendment treatments, applied prior to seeding in September 2013, were: 1) inorganic N, P, K applied according to soil test laboratory recommendations; 2) anaerobically digested, dewatered biosolids to supply agronomic N rate; 3) anaerobically digested, dewatered biosolids blended with sand and sawdust to supply agronomic N rate; 4) anaerobically digested, dewatered biosolids blended with sand and sawdust to supply agronomic P rate; and 5) composted biosolids to supply agronomic N rate. The agronomic N rate for the turfgrass was 224 kg of estimated plant available nitrogen (PAN) ha-1. Inorganic fertilizer was applied to supply annual P and K requirements prior to seeding in late summer, and the N was split into three application timings (September 2013, April 2014, and June 2014). Supplemental fertilizer N to achieve full agronomic N rate was applied to the treatment plots that received the agronomic P rate of blended biosolids-sand-sawdust. The area was seeded on September 13, 2013 with a tall fescue blend at a rate of 488 kg ha-1. Following full tall fescue establishment, in June 2014, two irrigation regimes, consisting of 0% and 80% evapotranspiration replacement every three days, were initiated. The study had three phases denoted as the pre-drought, drought, and recovery phases which started in April and concluded in August of 2014. Turfgrass color and quality, volumetric soil moisture percentage to a 5 cm depth, normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI), clipping yield, and turfgrass N uptake were measured bi-weekly throughout the growing season. During the first May through July 2014 irrigation season, results were that the fertilizer control consistently provided improved responses relative to the biosolids amended treatments. Clipping yield, quality, and NDVI were all significantly greater in the inorganic fertilizer treatment, but volumetric soil moisture percentages were slightly greater in the biosolids treatments. Turfgrass responses appeared to have been associated with plant available nitrogen, which was lower in the biosolids treatments than in the fertilizer treatment. Calculated PAN for the biosolids products was too low to achieve ideal turfgrass growth and quality. Improving the estimated PAN and/or splitting the organic amendment application times should improve the growth and quality of the turfgrass.
- Masters Theses