Salt Tolerance in Short Stature Native Grasses
David D Biesboer, Stephanie Neid, Bettina Darveaux
Report no. MnDOT 1998-16
In this project, researchers used extensive laboratory, greenhouse, and field studies to determine the relative salt tolerance of select native grasses and forbs used to re-vegetate rights-of-ways within four meters of the pavement edge. The studies found that grasses prove relatively tolerant to salt, but show poor survivability in the field during over-wintering. In contrast, forbs generally are sensitive to salt in their environment. Planting success of monocultures and mixtures of grasses near the pavement edge was poor. Observed percent coverage after two years ranged from about 10 to 20 percent over all tested species. Monitoring of longer established sites also shows that native species do not increase as a stand ages. Soil amendments including gypsum, potash, and potassium nitrate were only minimally effective in alleviating salt stress in sodic soils, although gypsum may have some promise in further field testing. The application of salt during winter salting operations also permanently and negatively impacts soil chemistry, which in concert with other plant stress factors such as soil compaction and infertile roadside soils, will continue to limit the success of establishing desirable vegetation on the inslopes of heavily salted roadways in Minnesota.