Mobility of soil nitrogen and microbial responses following the sudden death of established turf

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The stability of nitrogen within a turf-soil ecosystem is important both for efficient turf management and preventing the contamination of ground water by nitrate. The objective of this study was to quantify responses of the microbial community and the mobility of soil nitrogen following the sudden death of established turf. Twelve-year-old turf plots comprising four cool-season turfgrass species fertilized with five N sources were maintained on an Enfield silt loam (coarse-silty over sandy or sandy-skeletal, mixed, active, mesic Typic Dystrudept) at Kingston, RI. Half of the plots were killed with glyphosate in early September and any regrowth was removed mechanically. Measurements of soil physical, chemical, and microbiological properties and nitrate leaching in killed and healthy plots were compared for 12 mo. Turf death did not alter soil moisture, temperature, pH, or extractable ammonium. Nitrate levels were higher in both the root zone and at 60 cm following turf death and tiffs difference persisted for the sampling year. Carbon mineralization and microbial biomass C were not different between soils from healthy and killed plots. Killed plots leached three times more nitrate than healthy plots but this amounted to less than 10% of total soil N present. Retention of nitrate in a turf-soil system depends on absorption by living grass roots, although reasonable N stability is also provided by N cycling within the soil microbiota. Protecting ground water from nitrate contamination is optimized by maintaining a vigorous turfgrass cover.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Environmental Quality