Decomposition rates and N release patterns of turfgrass clippings from lawns are not well understood. Litter bags containing clippings were inserted into the thatch layer of a coolseason turf. The experiment was arranged as a 2 × 4 factorial in a randomized complete block design with three replicates. Treatments included four rates of N fertilizer (0, 98, 196, and 392 kg N ha-1 yr-1) and two clipping treatments (returned vs. removed). Litter bags were removed periodically over the growing season and samples were analyzed for biomass, N and C concentrations, and C:N ratio on an ash-free basis. Percentage N loss from the clippings after 16 weeks ranged from 88% to 93% at the 0 and 392 kg N ha-1 rates, respectively, and from 86% to 94% when clippings were removed (CRM) or returned (CRT), respectively. Percentage C loss from the clippings ranged from 94% to 95% at the 0 and 392 kg N ha-1 rates, respectively, and from 92% to 96% with CRM and CRT, respectively. Cumulative N release was similar across N fertilization rates, (ranging from 131 g N kg-1 to 135 g N kg-1 tissue) but was higher for CRT (151 g N kg-1 tissue) than for CRM (128 g N kg-1 tissue). Grass clippings decomposed rapidly and released N quickly when returned to the turf thatch layer. This indicates the potential for reduced N fertilization when clippings are returned. Such rapid decomposition also suggests that the contribution of grass clippings to thatch development is negligible.
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