The University of Arizona

Seasonal changes of herbage biomass on the fescue prairie.

W.D. Willms, B.W. Adams, J.F. Dormaar


Knowing the amount of herbage on rangeland is basic to management decisions related to livestock grazing. However, the amount of herbage available for grazing changes seasonally. Therefore, changes in herbage biomass were examined in different communities of the fescue prairie. The study was conducted at 2 sites in southwestern Alberta. In the Porcupine Hills near Stavely, changes in herbage biomass components were examined in 3 communities: rough fescue (Festuca campestris Rydb.), Parry oat grass (Danthonia parryi Scribn.)-Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), and Kentucky bluegrass-sedge (Carex spp.) by sampling at monthly intervals from April or May to late September. Observed trends among the rough fescue, Parry oatgrass-Kentucky bluegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass-sedge communities were, for peak current year's standing production, 398, 305, and 226 g m-2, respectively; for spring current year's standing production as a percent of its peak, 73, 50, and 35%, respectively; and for percent losses of total herbage biomass, from fall to spring, 24, 43, and 56%, respectively. In the foothills near Pincher Creek, the standing crop of grasses and fortes was sampled using paired subplots. One subplot was harvested in October and the other in April. Dry matter losses over winter averaged 27 and 58% for grasses and fortes, respectively. Of the 3 communities examined, production on the rough fescue community was the greatest, least dependent on precipitation during the growing season, and least susceptible to weathering losses and, therefore, had the greatest forage values. The Kentucky bluegrass-sedge community had the lowest forage values.


Carex;Poa pratensis;danthonia parryi;Danthonia;standing crop;Festuca campestris;stand characteristics;Alberta;rain;biomass production;plant communities;plant litter;seasonal variation;botanical composition;forage;dry matter

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