Facts and Advice on Turf Survival in Drought

There are many questions about turf survival in drought with the on-going drought in most parts of the state. Though we understand many of the mechanisms turf survival in drought, it's hard to duplicate all of the potential situations on research plots across the country and it's difficult to give definite “black and white” recommendations for every given situation. Following are facts supported by research but also some statements that are supported by experience and anecdotal evidence where appropriate.


•Though turfgrasses perform best with enough regular irrigation during the summer to keep them green and growing, they are very capable of surviving without rain or irrigation.
•Turfgrasses perform much better under slightly dry conditions than under wet or saturated conditions.
•Turfgrass dormancy (brown turf) is a survival mechanisms allowing survival up to up to 5-8 weeks without irrigation/precipitation without significant thinning upon recovery from dormancy. This would be under ideal conditions of no regular traffic, good soil, moderate temperatures, no shade, minimum thatch, etc. However, survival is affected by species, age, shade, maintenance (low mowing and/or scalping, too much nitrogen fertilizer in spring, not enough in fall), traffic, heat, etc., etc.; so optimum survival may not occur on your particular area.

Deciding to water or not

Advice if you choose to water

Advice if you choose not to water

Zac Reicher, Professor/Turfgrass Extension Specialist


Send corrections, suggestions, and comments to biehlj@purdue.edu