Application of soil amendments to maintain turf quality on sandy soils under reduced irrigation (TU13000)
Status: Completed project
What was it all about? Maintaining turfgrass quality under limited water supply is particularly problematic in sandy soils, which have a relatively low water retention and are highly dependent on frequent summer irrigation. And this is a particular issue in the face of future water restrictions, which are expected to hit hard in the coming years due to climate change and population growth.
Running from 2013 to the end of 2016, this project investigated the use of soil amendments to improve the water retention of sandy soils and decrease turf water requirements. While there has been the perception that the use of amendments in these soils can reduce deep water drainage and lead to more efficient use of irrigation water, this was the first time their use has been independently tested.
Field experiments were conducted at the University of Western Australia’s Turf Research Facility in Perth, to determine the effect of various amendments on soft-leaf buffalo grass quality and growth. Amendments had different grain/particle sizes and included bentonite, kaolinite, spongelite, ReadyGritTM and zeolite. They were either incorporated into topsoil individually or in combination with compost, and were irrigated two to three times a week.
The research found that finer-grained soil amendments in the topsoil (bentonite and kaolinite clays and compost) did increase water-holding capacity and reduce deep drainage when compared to the control plots and plots with differently textured amendments. However, even in the control plots none of the irrigation water drained beyond the root zone, and by retaining most water in the topsoil, plots with finer-grained amendments appeared more likely to lose irrigation water through soil evaporation. The researchers note that because of this, under both irrigation rates, turf in plots with amendments did not differ in colour from turf in control plots.
Subsequent investigation found that placing amendments lower in the soil profile – 5 to 15cm deep – did improve turf colour under limited irrigation, with modelling confirming deeper placement below the soil surface can further reduce the loss of irrigation to evaporation. The final recommendation of the researchers to reduce irrigation water use is to incorporate fine-grained grained amendments (clays, compost) at a rate of 5 or 10 per cent (wt/wt), in a band of at least 10cm and placed further than 3cm below the soil surface.
The project team note that only in situations with an increased chance of irrigation water drainage (for example, watering with large volumes, or watering turf with shallow roots) is it likely that incorporation of amendments in the topsoil will be beneficial for turfgrass water use efficiency.
The researchers add that further research will be needed to validate the effects of deep banding on turfgrass water use efficiency in a field situation, and establish optimal amendment type, placement depth and incorporation rates.
Full details will be found in the project’s final report, which will soon be available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.
Developing a national standard for turf as an erosion control measure (TU13034)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? This project is developing an Australian Standard for the use of turf in erosion control in construction management and completed works (such as buildings, roads, waterways, mining and any other situations where turf may assist in erosion control).
What’s the latest update? The draft standard, designated to be AS 5181, was released for public comment in November 2016, via the Standards Australia Public Comment Portal at www.standards.org.au. The draft remained open for comment until February 6 this year. Work to finalise the standard now continues.
Turf industry communications (TU12014)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? This project delivers up-to-date information on R&D, marketing and other resources that support the profitability and sustainability of Australian turf growers and others involved in the industry.
What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:
- The quarterly Turf Australia Industry Magazine, the latest editions of which are available here
- The fortnightly Turf Australia e-newsletter
- The Turf Australia social media program, which includes the Lawnspiration Facebook page, designed for users of turf, and the Turf Australia Facebook page, for turf growers
- Turf Facts factsheets as needed, with hard copies distributed with the industry magazine and digital versions available online. Recent Turf Facts, also available on the Hort Innovation website, include:
- Workshops and seminars as needed, including Telephone Sakes Skills workshops that were delivered towards the end of 2016 to provide growers with strategies to help improve their sales and maintain their turf prices
NxGen 2016-18 (TU15002)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? This project supports the annual NxGen forums. These events encourage leadership development, communicate R&D and marketing information, and enable professional networking for people aged under 40 in the Australian turf industry.
Turf levy funding enables a substantially reduced registration cost for delegates to enable widespread professional development of the next generation of Australian turf growers.
What’s the latest update? The 2016 NxGen forum was held in Perth, Western Australia, over two days at the end of August last year, with a full wrap-up provided in the last edition of Hortlink and in this Hort Innovation news article.
The project team is now working on the 2017 program, with the event to be held during May in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. An organising committee involving previous NxGen Forum participants and Canberra turf farm CanTurf has been formed to help develop and finalise the program.
National R&D conference 2016 and 2017 (TU15700)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? This projects supports industry conference and field day events to help growers:
- Run more profitable businesses
- Learn new production methods
- Realise the results of levy-funded R&D and marketing projects
- Assess new equipment, innovations and management practices that may aid more efficient turf production
- Professionally network with others in the turf industry.
What’s the latest update? The 2016 program took a new approach, delivering a series of state-based seminars that were rolled out in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth during July and August last year. Details have been provided in the last edition of Hortlink and in industry publications for those unable to attend.
The project team is now planning the 2017 national conference event, which is to be held in the first week of June in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. Feedback from the state-based forums will be used to help guide the program.
Other R&D projects of note…
- Turf industry statistics and research 2016/17 (TU16001), a new project contracted in December 2016 to collect and deliver industry data. It will be responsible for surveying Australian turf businesses and providing a clear picture of both the socioeconomic and physical status and needs of the industry.
- An environmental assessment of the Australian turf industry (TU16000), which was contracted towards the end of 2016. This project will benchmark the turf industry’s environmental performance and make recommendations for strengthening this performance without compromising on productivity or profitability.
- Business and industry development for the turf industry 2013-17 (TU13004), which began in 2013 and funds the position of a Business and Industry Development Manager (BIDM), Richard Stephens, within Turf Australia. Some of the project’s key aims are to facilitate collaboration and engagement with and between key industry bodies; facilitate technology adoption and communication programs for growers and other industry stakeholders; and deliver training programs and workshops to increase industry understanding and skills.
Turf levy investment in strategic co-investment projects…
What are ‘strategic co-investment’ projects?
Hort Innovation’s strategic co-investment initiative is responsible for developing collaborative cross-industry projects. These projects endeavour to solve major and often complex challenges crucial to securing the future of Australian horticulture. They are funded via a combination of Australian Government investments (at least $20 million annually) and co-investments that are brokered and managed by Hort Innovation (including from research institutes, commercial partners, individual levy industries and more).
How is the turf industry involved?
The turf industry has co-invested levy funds in the project Measuring Australia’s green space assets (GC15004), which will help quantify, evaluate and promote healthy and climate-resilient green space environments. It will address two key research questions: ‘What existing tools and methods are available around the world for mapping, monitoring and reporting on urban green space?’ And, ‘Are these tools suitable for application in Australia, and what modifications would be required?’ The project is part of the strategic co-investment Green Cities Fund, with more information available here. More detailed project updates will be provided in future editions of Hortlink.