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Decomposition rates and N release patterns of turfgrass clippings from lawns are not well understood. Litter bags containing clippings were inserted into the thatch layer of a coolseason turf. The experiment was arranged as a 2 × 4 factorial in a randomized complete block design with three replicates. Treatments included four rates of N fertilizer (0, 98, 196, and 392 kg N ha-1 yr-1) and two clipping treatments (returned vs. removed). Litter bags were removed periodically over the growing season and samples were analyzed for biomass, N and C concentrations, and C:N ratio on an ash-free basis. Percentage N loss from the clippings after 16 weeks ranged from 88% to 93% at the 0 and 392 kg N ha-1 rates, respectively, and from 86% to 94% when clippings were removed (CRM) or returned (CRT), respectively. Percentage C loss from the clippings ranged from 94% to 95% at the 0 and 392 kg N ha-1 rates, respectively, and from 92% to 96% with CRM and CRT, respectively. Cumulative N release was similar across N fertilization rates, (ranging from 131 g N kg-1 to 135 g N kg-1 tissue) but was higher for CRT (151 g N kg-1 tissue) than for CRM (128 g N kg-1 tissue). Grass clippings decomposed rapidly and released N quickly when returned to the turf thatch layer. This indicates the potential for reduced N fertilization when clippings are returned. Such rapid decomposition also suggests that the contribution of grass clippings to thatch development is negligible.


Presented at the 4th International Crop Science Congress
Brisbane, Australia, September 26 – October 1, 2004