Factors governing zoysiagrass response to herbicides applied during spring green-up

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Virginia Tech


Zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.) is utilized as a warm-season turfgrass because of its density, visual quality, stress tolerance, and reduced input requirements. Turf managers often exploit winter dormancy in warm-season turfgrass to apply nonselective herbicides such as glyphosate and glufosinate to control winter annual weeds. Although this weed control strategy is common in bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.), it has been less adopted in zoysiagrass due to unexplainable turf injury. Many university extension publications recommend against applying nonselective herbicides to dormant zoysiagrass despite promotional language found in a few peer-reviewed publications and product labels. Previous researchers have used vague terminology such as "applied to dormant zoysiagrass" or "applied prior to zoysiagrass green-up" to describe herbicide application timings. These ambiguous terms have led to confusion since zoysiagrass typically has subcanopy green leaves and stems throughout the winter dormancy period. No research has sought to explain why some turfgrass managers are observing zoysiagrass injury when the literature only offers evidence that these herbicides do not injure dormant zoysiagrass. We sought to explore various herbicides, prevailing temperatures surrounding application, heat unit based application timings, and spray penetration into zoysiagrass canopies as possible contributors to zoysiagrass injury.

The results indicated that a wide range of herbicides may be safely used in dormant zoysiagrass. However, as zoysiagrass begins to produce more green leaves, herbicides such as metsulfuron, glyphosate, glufosinate, flumioxazin, and diquat become too injurious. Glufosinate was consistently more injurious regardless of application timing than glyphosate and other herbicides. When temperatures were 10 °C for 7 d following treatment, a delayed effect of glyphosate and glufosinate effect on digitally-assessed green cover loss was noted on zoysiagrass sprigs. In subsequent studies on turf plugs, a 14-d incubation period at 10 °C reduced glyphosate but not glufosinate effects on turf green color reduction. Glyphosate applied at 125, and 200 GDD5C can safely be applied to zoysiagrass while glufosinate applied at the same timings caused inconsistent and often unacceptable zoysiagrass injury in field studies conducted at Blacksburg, VA, Starkville, MS, and Virginia Beach, VA. Zoysiagrass green leaf density was described as a function of accumulated heat units consistently across years and locations but variably by turf mowing height. Turf normalized difference vegetative index was primarily governed by green turf cover but reduced by herbicide treatments, especially when applied at greater than 200 GDD5C. Substantial spray deposition occurred to subcanopy tissue regardless of nozzle type, pressure and height above the zoysiagrass canopy based on spectrophotometric assessment of a colorant admixture. However, increasing nozzle height above the turf canopy and avoiding air induction type nozzles significantly reduced the percentage of green tissue exposed at lower canopy levels. Absorption of radio-labeled glyphosate and glufosinate was up to four times greater when exposed to zoysiagrass stems compared to leaves. Glyphosate translocated more than glufosinate and both herbicides moved more readily from stem to leaf than from leaf to stem



Zoyisagrass, Zoysia japonica Steud., Zoysia matrella (L) Merr., dormant zoysiagrass, spring green-up, glyphosate, glufosinate, weed control, heat unit, growing-degree-days, spray deposition, herbicide absorption and translocation.