The University of Arizona

Spring defoliation effects on bluebunch wheatgrass. I. Winter forage quality.

P.E. Clark, W.C. Krueger, L.D. Bryant, D.R. Thomas

Abstract


The winter forage quality of bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum [Pursh] Scribn. &Smith) is generally inadequate for maintenance of wintering Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni Bailey). Previous attempts to improve the winter forage quality of bluebunch wheatgrass by clipping and livestock grazing have achieved mixed results. We report crude protein (CP), (in vitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD), and dry matter (DM) yield responses of bluebunch wheatgrass to 3 phenological stage/defoliation intensity treatment combinations. The study was conducted in 1993 and 1994 at 2 sites in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon. Bluebunch wheatgrass was hand clipped 1 to a 7.6-cm stubble height in early June under 1 of 3 treatment combinations: 1) mid-boot/whole-plant clipped, 2) mid-boot/one-half of the plant's basal area clipped, and 3) inflorescence emergence/whole-plant clipped. Early November levels of CP and IVDMD were greater under all 3 treatments compared to an unclipped control. Mean forage quality improvement over the control was greatest in the inflorescence emergence treatment with an improvement of 1.3 percentage points for CP and 5.8 percentage points for IVDMD. Dry matter yield of the control exceeded that of all clipping treatments. Increases in forage quality resulting from forage conditioning treatments may be important to the viability of elk populations wintering on rangelands where forage quality, rather than quantity, is limiting.

Keywords


energy requirements;developmental stages;Pseudoroegneria spicata;stubble;protein content;yields;Cervus elaphus;winter;cutting;digestibility;crude protein;phenology;nutritive value;forage;dry matter

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