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What are halophytes?

A new generation of turf varieties allows the landscape development in saline environments. These turf varieties come from a group of salt tolerant plants known as 'halophytes'. A basic description of halophytes are plants that have a set of physiological adaptations that allows for the growth and development of the plant in a saline environment. Many people are familiar with the halophytes mangroves and cord grass growing in coastal ecosystem areas. The mangrove and cord grasses are often the first plants growing along some coastal areas due to their emergent growth habit. Emergent growth habit is where the base of the plant is always or often submerged under water with the stem and aerial plant parts 'emerging' and growing above the waters surface. The plants growing in succession behind the emergents include several other halophytic grasses growing on salt marsh areas and also drier saline upland sites including dune formations. These grasses have now been developed and selected to produce plant varieties that can be utilized as turf. The currently available fine-textured turf varieties come from two species, Seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) and Seashore dropseed (Sporobolus virginicus). These turfs are fine textured making high quality lawn surfaces which are also extremely salt tolerant. Fine textured varieties are available for all landscape use including lawns, athletic fields, golf tees, fairways and even close mown putting green surfaces. These turfs are ideal in environments in which salt water spray is a problem, or where limited or no fresh water is available for irrigation.  These turfs and many other halophytic plants are ideal where effluent (reclaimed water) irrigation is used.

Environmentally friendly grass 

These grasses are environmentally friendly requiring low fertility and pest control. Simple applications of salt water will kill and control most weed pests while leaving the turf undamaged. Resort or home landscapes subject to seawater flooding from storm surge can maintain an actively growing turf that will not require replacing following recession of the salty flood waters. In terms of water use, these turfs represent a tremendous water savings compared to traditional turfs. Even utilizing fresh water irrigation, water usage rates may be reduced as much as 50%. With the utilization of salt-affected water, the water usage rate increases as salinity increases. However, even with salt water irrigation, the water usage rates are comparable with hybrid bermudagrass that is utilizing fresh water irrigation. The development of cheap salt-affected water resources allows the conservation of precious fresh water resources. These turfs are now available commercially through Barbuda Farms International. Given typical water costs for the Caribbean region, cost savings up to US$2.00 per square foot per year are possible.

Barbuda Farms International
Codrington Village, Barbuda
Antigua-Barbuda, West Indies


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