Establishment of Ammophila arenaria (marram grass) from culms, seeds and rhizomes

  • Published source details van Der Putten W.H. (1990) Establishment of Ammophila arenaria (marram grass) from culms, seeds and rhizomes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 27, 188-199.


Because of its natural ability to colonize and stabilize sand dunes, marram grass Ammophila arenaria is often used to control coastal erosion. A preliminary field
trial outlined here, was undertaken to test several temporary sand stabilization techniques and assess there affect on marram seedling emergence. The best method of temporarily stabilizing the sand was then used in a field trial to compare the traditional planting with alternative planting, methods.

Study site:The field experiment was undertaken on the coastal foredunes on the island of Voorne, the Netherlands (51.5ºN, 4.05ºE).

Methods: In May 1984, protective cover by nurse crops and short-term sand fixation were studied in a preliminary field experiment by measuring emergence and establishment of marram seedlings. Plots (3 x 6 m) were arranged in a Latin square design with three replicates. Marram seeds were sown at a rate of 580 seeds/m² (20 kg/ha maximum germination percentage 95%). Half of each plot was sown with a nurse crop (mix of 5 species) which was supposed to emerge quickly and protect the marram seedlings. The mix (sown at 241 kg/ha) contained rye Secale cereale (70 kg/ha), barley Hordeum vulgare (70 kg/ha), wheat Triticum aestivum (70 kg/ha), lupine Lupinus perennis (30 kg/ha) and white clover Trifolium repens (1 kg/ha). The seeds were buried by harrowing the sand.

Five methods of short-term sand stabilization were trialed:

i) disc-harrowed straw (0.5 kg/m²);

ii) bundles of dry reed Phragmites australis planted in a 50 x 75 cm grid;

iii) compost ('edelcompost', 4 kg/m², suspended in water and sprayed on the sand);

iv) carboxy methyl cellulose (CMC, 'average viscosity' type, 4 g/m², suspended in water and sprayed on the sand);

v) control (no treatment).

In August and November 1984, and August and September 1985, emerged seedlings were counted in a 0.5 x 1 m patch selected at random in each plot.

Results are summarised in Table 1 (attached). Very few marram seedlings established in 1984 (maximum 58 in straw plots with no nurse crop). A second germination flush occurred in 1985 in straw stabilized plots (112-158 seedlings/plot). In plots with reed, CMC, and compost, marram seedlings failed completely in 1985. The highest emergence of nurse crops occurred in plots with sand fixation (all methods) compared to controls, and 15 cm stubbles remained until the end of 1985. The nurse crop did not, however, affect the number of Ammophila seedlings significantly, all though there was a trend of greater seedling numbers in the presence of the nurse crop.

Conclusions: In this study the relative effects of straw, carboxy methyl cellulose, compost, reed, and a nurse crop on stabilizing sand and promoting marram seedling establishment was assessed. Only straw was effective.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at:

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