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Turfgrass species differ greatly in their ability to withstand the abrasion and compaction of traffic. Wear tolerance of turfgrass species and cultivars has been evaluated abroad by many researchers, while only few and partial studies have been conducted in Italy. Field experiment was carried out in Viterbo in 2001, 2002 and 2003 to evaluate the effect of the simulated traffic on 110 varieties belonging to four turfgrass cool-season species: tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), fine fescues (Festuca rubra L. ssp. rubra Gaud., ssp. commutata Gaud., ssp. tricophylla Gaud.), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.). Shoot density, visual turfgrass quality and thatch thickness were the major characters recorded to estimate wear tolerance. Traffic was simulated using a device containing three rollers pulled by a small tractor. The traffic simulator weighed 564 kg and applied a pressure of about 3 MPa. Results indicated that perennial ryegrass and tall fescue had high wear tolerance and low statistical variation among cultivars. Kentucky bluegrass showed an average wear tolerance owing to its shoot density and good recovery potential. In spite of their high shoot density, fine fescues exhibited poor wear tolerance because of their scarce resistance to high temperatures which are typical of the Mediterranean climate in late spring and summer. This study enabled a preliminary selection of the most suitable cool-season grasses and cultivars for trafficked and non-trafficked areas in Central Italy and highlighted that different turfgrass species have different wear tolerance mechanisms.
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