Agronomy and Horticulture Department


First Advisor

William C. Kreuser

Date of this Version



Michael, D. Winter desiccation prevention and recovery in turfgrass. M.S. Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Agronomy, Under the Supervision of Professor William Kreuser. Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2016

Copyright 2016 Darrell James Michael


Desiccating winters in the Northern Great Plains can lead to widespread turf death. This loss of turf results in poor aesthetics and can be financially burdensome. Financial implications include the cost of re-establishing turf and the loss of potential revenue from poor playing conditions in the spring which can both be devastating for financial success. The winter of 2013-2014 was particularly devastating, leaving many golf course superintendents re-evaluating their desiccation prevention management plans. There are many prevention practices available to turf managers that vary greatly in affordability, effectiveness, and labor. These prevention practices aim to prevent excessive water loss and keep plant tissue hydrated. Specifically, the survival of the turf crown, or growing point of the plant, is critical for rapid recovery in the spring. Desiccation prevention treatments include physical protection products such as protective covers and sand topdressing. Additionally, several spray-applied products have potential to reduce desiccation, including anti-transpirants, horticultural spray oils, turf colorants, and wetting agents. Current recommendations for winter desiccation prevention are based on anecdotal observations, rather than scientific explanation. The first objective of this study is to quantify the effectiveness of desiccation prevention treatments in terms of crown moisture content and spring recovery. A second objective is to evaluate commonly practiced re-establishment techniques which maximize turf re-establishment following winter desiccation to guide future recommendations.

The results from this study indicate that protective covers and sand topdressing can sustain crown moisture content in desiccating environments, and these treatments often lead to more rapid spring recovery. Crown moisture contents observed in March ranged from as high 0.764 g H2O g-1 fresh weight from an impermeable cover treatment to as low as 0.251 g H2O g-1 fresh weight from the control treatment. Protective covers and sand topdressing consistently sustained crown moisture and recovered in the spring. Results from the winterkill recovery study showed that many of the practices which accelerate recovery may not be as effective as previously believed. Protective covers and aggressive fertilization did not maximize re-establishment in this study; these results may attributed to low solar radiation accumulation typical to the early spring and pre-existing nutrients sources providing adequate fertility.

Advisor: William Kreuser