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Relative Traffic Tolerance of Cool-Season Turfgrasses and Suitability for Grazing by Equine

Jaqueth, Aubrey L., Turner, Thomas R., Iwaniuk, Marie E., McIntosh, Bridgett J., Burk, Amy O.
Journal of equine veterinary science 2019 v.78 pp. 79-88
Agrostis stolonifera, Festuca arundinacea, Festuca rubra subsp. fallax, Festuca trachyphylla, autumn, biomass, carbohydrates, cold season, cultivars, forage grasses, grazing, horses, mowing, nutrient content, soil compaction, sowing, spring, summer, trampling damage, trotting, turf grasses
Unlike traditional forage grasses, turfgrasses, which were developed to be tolerant of foot traffic and close mowing, may be suitable as alternative ground cover in areas of high hoof traffic such as dry lots. The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential of eight cool-season turfgrasses as alternative ground cover in heavy use areas. Cultivars were established via seeding in four replicated plots. To simulate horse traffic at a trot, a Baldree traffic simulator was driven over a section of the plot, either 0 (CON), 1 (LOW), or 2 (HIGH) times per week for 6 weeks followed by 4 weeks of rest in the spring, summer, and fall over a 2-year period. Variables assessed include compaction, biomass available for grazing, vegetative cover (persistence), and nutrient composition. Soil compaction increased with the application of traffic treatments (P < .0001). Traffic treatment reduced persistence following traffic by 19%–36% across all trials in both years (P = .0003). For most trials, biomass available for grazing was reduced after traffic treatment by 19% and 43% (P = .02). Overall, tall fescue cultivars were most traffic tolerant followed by hard fescue. Cultivars considered “low” in nonstructural carbohydrate (<15%) included creeping bentgrass in Year 1 and hard fescue and chewings fescue in Year 2. In Year 2, the Ca:P ratio declined beyond what is recommended for horses. Tall fescue, hard fescue, and creeping bentgrass cultivars are recommended for further evaluation as suitable ground cover in areas of heavy use on equine operations.