The University of Arizona

Defoliation of a northern wheatgrass community: above- and belowground phytomass productivity.

J. Zhang, J.T. Romo

Abstract


A defoliation study was conducted on a fair condition, clayey range site that is potentially dominated by northern wheatgrass (Agropyron dasystachyum (Hook.) Scribn.) in south-central Saskatchewan. Vegetation was subjected to a factorial experiment with an initial defoliation in early-May, June, July, or August and repeated at 2- or 6-week intervals until mid-September in the same plots for 3 years. An undefoliated control was also included. Herbage removed, residual live, dead, total and root phytomass were measured. Defoliation reduced all yield components, with the exception of herbage removed. Residual live grass was reduced 37, 57, and 46%, respectively, in first second, and third years; the sedge and forb components of live residual phytomass generally were not affected by defoliation. Compared to control, dead phytomass was reduced 77% in the first year, 67% in the second, and 52% in the third year across treatments. Total herbage yield across defoliation treatments ranged from 68 to 93% of control Total live phytomass (herbage removed + residual live phytomass) in defoliated plots equaled control Herbage removal was greatest when initially defoliated in early July and thereafter at 2-week intervals. When defoliated at 6-week intervals residual live and dead phytomass were generally greater than when herbage was removed biweekly. Yields were higher when the first defoliation was delayed and repeated at 6-week intervals. Generally, root phytomass was not different among defoliation treatments, but total belowground phytomass was reduced 30% in the 0-30-cm depth after 3 year of defoliation. This northern mixed prairie ecosystem is sensitive to herbage removal. Maximum forage yield can be obtained if grazing is deferred until after peak growth in July.

Keywords


Elymus lanceolatus;leaves;roots;Saskatchewan;biomass production;rangelands;defoliation

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