Effects of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Fertilizer and Topsoil Amendment on Native Plant Cover in Roadside Revegetation Projects
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 warm-season 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 post-construction 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.
KeywordsRoadside seeding Warm-season grasses Fertilization Nitrogen Phosphorus Topsoil
We thank NDOT- Materials and Research Division for funding this project, NDOT District 1 for providing land and maintenance staff for site preparation and traffic control during project installation, Jason Henderson and Green Thumb LLC for installation of this project, and the staff, graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for assisting with data collection.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
This study was funded by Nebraska Department of Transportation RHE-1 (Fertilizer Effects on Attaining Vegetation Requirements). Carol Wienhold is employed by Nebraska Department of Transportation.
- Anderson BE (2007) Establishing dryland forage grasses. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Lincoln, NE, NebGuide G1705Google Scholar
- Barnhart S (1996) Warm-season grasses for hay and pasture. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, Cooperative Extension Service, PM-569Google Scholar
- Black AL (1968) Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization for production of crested Wheatgrass and native grass in Northeastern Montana. Agron J 60:213–216. https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj1968.00021962006000020021x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Brady NC, Weil RR (1999) The nature and properties of soils, 12th edn. Prentice-Hall, Inc, Upper Saddle River, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
- Claassen VP, Zasoski RJ (1994) The effects of topsoil reapplication on vegetation reestablishment. California Department of Transportation, Sacramento (CA)Google Scholar
- Haigh MJ (1977) Use of Erosion Pins in the Study of Slope Evolution, Technical Bulletin 18. British Geomorphological Research GroupGoogle Scholar
- Hargis NE, Redente EF (1984) Soil handling for surface mine reclamation. J Soil Water Conserv 39:300–305Google Scholar
- Heggenstaller AH, Moore KJ, Liebman M, Anex RP (2009) Nitrogen influences biomass and nutrient partitioning by perennial, warm-season grasses all rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Agron J 101:1363–1371. https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj2008.0225x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hill JO, Simpson RJ, Moore AD, Chapman DF (2006) Morphology and response of roots of pasture species to phosphorus and nitrogen nutrition. Plant and Soil 286:7–19Google Scholar
- Muir JP, Sanderson MA, Ocumpaugh WR, Jones RM, Reed RL (2001) Biomass production of ‘alamo’ switchgrass in response to nitrogen, phosphorus, and row spacing research supported by the biofuels systems division under contract DE-AC05-84OR21400 to Oak Ridge Natl. Lab. managed by Martin Marietta energy systems. Agron J 93:896–901. https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj2001.934896x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nebraska Department of Transportation (2017) NDOT roadside vegetation establishment and management. Lincoln, NE, USAGoogle Scholar
- Packard S, Mutel CF (1997) The tallgrass restoration handbook. Island Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
- SAS Institute Inc (2012) SAS 9.3, 9.3 edn., Cary, NCGoogle Scholar
- Schacht WH, Soper J (2012) Adapting NDOR’s roadside seed mixture for local site conditions, project RHE-07, Final Report. Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NEGoogle Scholar
- Steinfeld DE, Riley SA, Wilkinson KM, Landis TD, Riley LE (2007) Roadside revegetation: An integrated approach to establishing native plants. Federal Highway Administration. Vancouver, WA, USAGoogle Scholar
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (2008) Soil quality indicators: bulk density. http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/assessment/files/bulk_density_sq_physical_indicator_sheet.pdfGoogle Scholar
- Wienhold CE (2008) Research Statement of Need. Lincoln, NE, USAGoogle Scholar