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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Landscape and Watershed Processes

Deficit Irrigation and Fertility Effects on NO3–N Exports from St. Augustinegrass


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 46 No. 4, p. 793-801
    Received: Dec 20, 2016
    Accepted: June 15, 2017
    Published: July 27, 2017

    * Corresponding author(s): charles.fontanier@okstate.edu
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  1. Charles H. Fontanier *a,
  2. Jacqueline A. Aitkenhead-Petersonb,
  3. Benjamin G. Wherleyb,
  4. Richard H. Whiteb,
  5. James C. Thomasb and
  6. Phil Dwyerc
  1. a Dep. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Oklahoma State Univ., 358 Agricultural Hall Stillwater, OK, 74078
    b Dep. of Soil and Crop Science, Texas A&M Univ., 370 Olsen Blvd. College Station, TX, 77843-2474
    c Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, 14111 Scottslawn R., Marysville, OH, 43040
Core Ideas:
  • Deficit irrigation practices reduce seasonal nitrate-N exports from turf.
  • Turfgrass systems accumulate N more efficiently under deficit irrigation programs.
  • Deficit irrigation with high N fertility can increase N loss from turf systems.


Proper management of turfgrass systems is critical for reducing the risk of nutrient loss and protecting urban surface waters. In the southern United States, irrigation can be the most significant management practice regulating the biogeochemical and hydrological cycles of turfgrass systems. A turfgrass runoff research facility was used to assess the effects of deficit irrigation and fertilizer applications on turfgrass canopy cover and nitrate-N (NO3–N) exports in runoff from St. Augustinegrass [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze] turf over a 2-yr period. Treatments were arranged as a randomized complete block design having eight combinations of irrigation (100, 75, or 50% of estimated turfgrass water requirements) and fertility level (0, 88, and 176 kg N ha−1 yr−1). Runoff from 31 rainfall events and one irrigation excess event were used to estimate annual and seasonal NO3–N exports. The majority of annual NO3–N exports occurred during the late winter and spring. Deficit irrigation reduced summer and early autumn runoff volumes. Lower summer and autumn runoff volumes (from deficit irrigation) coincided with reduced NO3–N exports from runoff during Year 1. Deficit irrigation combined with fertilizer applications increased runoff [NO3–N] in Year 2, suggesting that the previous year’s export reduction contributed to higher N accumulation in the system and thus a higher N loss potential. These findings suggest that deficit irrigation can be a tool for reducing seasonal nutrient exports from St. Augustinegrass lawns so long as fertilizer inputs are moderate.

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