PRCA News

City Partners with UF/IFAS to Pilot Compost Topdressing Study at City Parks

4/12/2019

The City of Gainesville has partnered with UF/IFAS to test the effectiveness of using organic compost as a turfgrass management alternative on the Fred Cone Park multipurpose field. 

Typical management of an athletic or multipurpose field requires extensive irrigation and fertilizer use in order to maintain healthy turf under stressful conditions. However, alternative management strategies – such as topdressing with organic compost – can potentially reduce irrigation and fertilizer demands by improving soil conditions.

Preliminary research has shown that topdressing with organic compost is an effective management strategy. However, little is known about how topdressing may affect a plant community containing a mixture of desirable and undesirable “weedy” plant species. More information is also needed on the effects of topdressing on the soil-water relationship and potential impacts on reduced irrigation demand and nutrients leaching from the soil.

Dr. AJ Reisinger from UF’s Soil and Water Sciences Department and other collaborating researchers are leading the study at Cone Park. “Our goal is to find ways to keep our grasses green and waters blue,” said Dr. Reisinger, “and we’re looking to provide the same experience to park visitors while minimizing water and chemical inputs by using compost amendments to improve the overall soil health, which is really the foundation of a healthy landscape.”

At Cone Park, the field has been divided into a “checkerboard” of test plots receiving different combinations of treatments, including herbicide, fertilizer, and compost. Life Soils Inc. completed the compost application in early April, using their COMAND compost product. Plots will be sampled throughout the 2019 growing season to provide estimates of nutrient availability, nutrient loss, and soil-water relationships, and how these parameters are affected by the different treatments. UF IFAS Alachua County Extension and the Master Gardener program will also be hosting “BioBlitz” field days to determine plant species composition within the plots. In addition, drone flyovers will be conducted periodically for visual comparison of the plots throughout the study. Project progress can be tracked on the project webpage at http://www.ajreisingerlab.com/conepark.html.

For more information about the project, please contact Liliana Kolluri, Urban Forestry Inspector, at 352-393-8188 or kollurils@cityofgainesville.org.


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