Research Update From New Mexico State University

By Brian Whitlark, agronomist, Southwest Region
December 11, 2013

‘Princess 77’ bermudagrass irrigated under drought conditions (50 percent of ETo) performed better when routinely treated with Primo MAXX® (left) compared to non-treated plots (right).

The Southwest Turfgrass Association Conference wrapped up prior to Thanksgiving in Ruidoso, N.M. Drs. Bernd Leinauer and Ryan Goss, along with their skilled team of graduate students, presented an update on 2013 research findings. In all, seven research projects were presented, with the primary focus on salinity and water conservation. Highlights from three studies are offered below.

  1. Seed coating to establish turfgrasses under drought and salinity stress  

The goal of this study is to determine if an experimental seed coating will enhance germination and establishment of perennial ryegrass and seashore paspalum when irrigating with saline water on both hydrophilic (water loving) and hydrophobic (water repellant) soils. Initial findings indicate the experimental seed coating did indeed improve germination and establishment when grown in a growth chamber and in greenhouse soils when irrigated with saline water. Further research will strive to identify if this strategy will yield positive results in the field.

  1. Surfactants and plant growth regulators for water conservation  

Several commercially available wetting agents, Primo MAXX® growth regulator and an experimental hydrophilic sand were repeatedly applied to ‘Princess 77’ bermudagrass and ‘Sea Spray’ paspalum irrigated at 80 percent and 50 percent of reference evapotranspiration with saline and potable water. Initial results revealed the polymer-coated sand, wetting agents and Primo MAXX enhanced turf quality under drought conditions.

  1. Comparison of water quantity applied to bermudagrass turf using soil moisture sensors versus evapotranspiration-controlled irrigation  

Four varying irrigation regimes were employed over a two-year period on tall fescue and bermudagrass turf. Water was applied based on: 1) the Toro Precision soil sensor, 2) the Irritrol® Climate Logic weather sensor, 3) historical ET, and 4) constant run time irrigation, or set run time irrigation. Irrigation scheduled by the Toro Precision soil sensor yielded water savings of 61 percent and 45 percent on tall fescue and 46 percent and 38 percent on bermudagrass in 2012 and 2013, respectively, when compared to constant run time irrigation.

Please visit the New Mexico State University Turfgrass website for more information on these topics or to contact Drs. Leinauer and Goss.

Source: Brian Whitlark (

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