Soil surface covers may help to protect germinating turfgrass seeds from desiccation during field establishment and to reduce the frequency of watering, all of which could be beneficial in water-limited environments. The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness of shade netting as a soil surface cover for the establishment of hybrid Bermuda grass, Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. 'Princess 77'. Four soil surface cover treatments were used (0, 25, 55, 73% shade netting), the material was pinned to the soil surface after sowing. In the first study, we investigated the effects of the different surface cover treatments on turfgrass establishment from seeds sown in pots with three different rooting media (soil; 1:1 sand/soil mixture; and sand). The second study investigated the effects of two soil surface cover removal times on turfgrass establishment in small field plots using the sand/soil mixture rooting medium. Observations included chlorophyll index, plant height, damage caused by removal of the surface covers, and percentage green cover determined by digital image analysis after removal of the surface covers. In the pot study, chlorophyll index and grass growth were highest for turfgrass established in the soil rooting medium and with use of the 55% shade netting surface cover. It was also observed that soil moisture loss during the day was significantly reduced by use of the soil surface covers except for turfgrass established in sand. In the field study, grass growth was better when the soil cover treatments were removed after one week than when removed after two weeks. Generally, damage to seedlings during the removal of the soil surface covers tended to be least for turfgrass established in the sand/soil mixture, with use of the lowest density (25%) shade netting surface cover and with removal of the shade netting after one week. The 55% shade netting surface cover appeared to be most suitable and it is recommended that this cover be removed at approximately one week after sowing.


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