Producing better sports turf through soil microbial management

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Sports turf is an integral part of the UK economy, contributing valuable public green space, employment and £20.29 billion of economic activity. This thesis aimed to examine how to reduce the reliance of turf on pesticides and fertilisers, and to create sustainable high quality turf in the UK, by soil microbial management. The four main outcomes of this research were:

1. The microbial communities of golf courses were found to differ between greens and between courses, through both Phospholipid Fatty Acid (PLFA) analysis and Illumina sequencing. A significant proportion of those sequences could not be identified to a species level and so suggested the communities are unique with possible undescribed species.

2. Soil type, proximity to the coast, age, location, biostimulant use, microbial inoculant use and number of fungicide active ingredients used were all shown to influence microbial populations. However, application of individual pesticides had no effect on microbial communities in field trials. Garlic products (currently favoured as a nematode control method) were shown to reduce arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) colonisation.

3. Microbial inoculants must be tailored to the management regime and sward composition to ensure compatibility. Higher fertiliser use reduced AMF colonisation though this did not always result in reduced growth effects. Ideal inoculant dose rates were determined but it is possible to overdose an inoculum, thereby reducing benefits.

4. Common benefits found from mycorrhizal colonisation of turfgrasses were tested in a simulated golf putting green environment. Drought and waterlogging tolerance were shown in multiple grass species, as well as a reduced need for fertiliser. Poa annua was suppressed through AMF inoculation, though it could be encouraged using PGPR.

Overall microbial inoculants display a range of benefits for use in an integrated pest management scheme, though they must be tailored to management regime and sward composition for maximal effect.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 2020


  • sports turf
  • AMF
  • mycorrhizae
  • inoculant
  • PGPR
  • turfgrass
  • turf grass
  • golf courses
  • Soil Microbiology

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