Research on salt tolerant turfgrass

Researchers from Platinum TE Paspalum, an environmentally sustainable, salt-tolerant turfgrass has published an original white paper entitled, “What does turfgrass salinity tolerance really mean?”

The paper recognizes the impact environmental, genetic and physiological mechanisms have on turfgrass salinity tolerance, and it highlights the science that makes paspalum the most salt tolerant turfgrass.

Many different factors contribute to the salinity of a turfgrass ecosystem, making it a challenge to manage. These factors include the type of soil, water pH, and critical salt ions/compounds. Thus a major priority for any plant is the genetic capability to activate one or more salt tolerance mechanisms. These defense mechanisms in the plant come from its genetic makeup, with the paper stating, “There are approximately 1000 genes involved in salt tolerance mechanism(s) activation.”

The research summarizes salinity impact on plants in two ways: foliar absorption from saline irrigation water, salt spray or storm surge inundation, and direct root uptake of soil-accumulated salts. Salinity tolerance mechanisms, such as plant tissue tolerance and avoidance, vary among turfgrass species and cultivars in dealing with the overall salt impact on the plant.

“While all turfgrass species and cultivars absorb salt ions normally by root uptake from the soil and foliar absorption from sprinkler irrigation of saline water, the degree of salinity impact is governed by the level of genetic tolerance and the capability to perform in the ecosystem long term,” the paper explains.

The researchers then go on to compare a variety of turfgrass species by their salinity tolerance. The most salt tolerant turfgrass species include seashore paspalum, alkaligrass, and saltgrasses, followed by groups with decreasing overall salt tolerance including fairway/Western wheatgrass and kikuyu. Groups that are even less salt tolerant include zoysiagrass, tall fescue and common bermudagrass. Carpetgrass, colonial bentgrass and roughstalk bluegrass have the least salt tolerance of any turfgrass species.

In summary, paspalum turfgrass species has the ability to handle both high salt load from irrigation water and as salt accumulation in the soil increases, the ability to handle the increased root and foliar absorption. Paspalum’s dual mechanism to handle sodium concentrations will challenge the sustainability of less tolerant cultivars. Plus, even though seashore paspalum can tolerate variable levels of salinity, it does not require salts or saline conditions to achieve optimum performance standards in the turf industry.

To read the complete white paper, please click here.