Agronomy and Horticulture Department



Heidi L. Hillhouse

Date of this Version



Published in Environmental Management, 2017. DOI 10.1007/s00267-017-0946-9


Copyright © 2017 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. Used by permission.


Establishing vegetation on roadsides following construction can be challenging, especially for relatively slow growing native species. Topsoil is generally removed during construction, and the surface soil following construction (“cut-slope soils”) is often compacted and low in nutrients, providing poor growing conditions for vegetation. Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) protocols have historically called for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilization when planting roadside vegetation following construction, but these recommendations were developed for cool-season grass plantings and most current plantings use slower-establishing, native warmseason grasses that may benefit less than expected from current planting protocols. We evaluated the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization, and also topsoil amendment, on the foliar cover of seeded and non-seeded species planted into two postconstruction roadside sites in eastern Nebraska. We also examined soil movement to determine how planting protocols and plant growth may affect erosion potential. Three years after planting, we found no consistent effects of N or P fertilization on foliar cover. Plots receiving topsoil amendment had 14% greater cover of warm-season grasses, 10% greater total foliar cover, and 4–13% lower bare ground (depending on site) than plots without topsoil. None of the treatments consistently affected soil movement. We recommend that NDOT change their protocols to remove N and P fertilization and focus on stockpiling and spreading topsoil following construction.