The effect of returning grass clippings on turfgrass growth and quality has not been thoroughly examined. The objective of this research was to determine the effects of returning grass clippings in combination with varying N rates on growth, N utilization, and quality of turfgrass managed as a residential lawn. Two field experiments using a cool-season turfgrass mixture were arranged as a 2 x 4 factorial in a randomized complete block design with three replicates. Treatments included two clipping management practices (returned or removed) and four N rates (equivalent to 0, 98, 196, and 392 kg N ha(-1)). Soils at the two sites were a Paxton fine sandy loam (coarse-loamy, mixed, active, mesic Oxyaquic Dystrudepts) and a variant of a Hinckley gravelly sandy loam (sandy-skeletal, mixed, mesic Typic Udorthents). Returning clippings was found to increase clipping dry matter yields (DMYs) from 30 to 72%, total N uptake (NUP) from 48 to 60%, N recovery by 62%, and N use efficiency (NUE) from 52 to 71%. Returning grass clippings did not decrease turfgrass quality, and improved it in some plots. We found that N fertilization rates could be reduced 50% or more without decreasing turfgrass quality when clippings were returned. Overall, returning grass clippings was found to improve growth and quality of turfgrass while reducing N fertilization needs.
Kopp, Kelly and Guillard, Karl, "Clipping Management and Nitrogen Fertilization of Turfgrass: Growth, Nitrogen Utilization, and Quality" (2002). Plant Science Articles. Paper 1.