Expanding the Success of Salt-Tolerant Roadside Turf Grasses through Innovation and Education

The University of Minnesota has been working with several partners for over four years developing and implementing salt-tolerant grasses on roadside settings. The result of this effort has been the introduction and use of salt-tolerant sod and seed mixtures that are made up primarily of fine fescue species. Through on-site assessments, the project has determined that even with the use of these improved mixtures, there are an unacceptably high number of installation failures. The study team has concluded that these failures are due to many factors including improper pre- and post-installation watering, poor soil preparation, seasonal weather influence, poor rooting of fine fescue grasses cut for sod, and lack of nutrients. Of these, the primary problem appears to be improper watering during establishment. Current watering practices are insufficient for fine fescue sod and new options need to be identified and implemented in a way that makes economic sense for Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and sod/seed installers. The first objective of this project is to investigate alternative means of irrigating new installations of salt tolerant seed and sod mixtures. The second objective is to evaluate these new irrigation methods in comparison to current practices. In objective 3, the study team proposes developing an online voluntary training and education program for installers of roadside turf. Finally, in objective 4, the team will develop online maintenance education for homeowners that receive new salt-tolerant grass installations. This project expands on a current local road research board (LRRB)-funded project that is determining the most important factors associated with roadside salt-tolerant grass establishment (best time of year to sod; how to amend the soil; how much water is needed; etc.). This proposed project will use information from the previously-funded project to (1) develop systems that can be used in the field by installers and (2) educate and train stakeholders involved in this important component of road construction.