The University of Arizona

Seedbank diversity in grazing lands of the Northeast United States.

B.F. Tracy, M.A. Sanderson


We evaluated the species composition of soil seed banks from 9 farms (36 pastures total) located in the northeast United States. Our objective was to quantify the soil seed bank composition of pastures managed for intensive grazing and hay production. Seeds from pasture soils were allowed to germinate in a greenhouse under natural light conditions. Seedlings were identified as they germinated, and the experiment was concluded after 4 months. Germinable seed was dominated by annual (40%) and perennial (23%) forbes most of which contributed little useful forage for cattle. Perennial grasses (11%), except for bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), were largely absent from the terminable seed bank, while legumes (19%) were more abundant. Seed bank species composition showed little similarity (44%) to the existing vegetation. Exceptions were bluegrass, white clover (Trifolium repens L.), and common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Weber ex Wiggers). These species were abundant in both the germinable seed bank and existing vegetation on most pastures. Overall, our study suggests that seed banks in these northeast pastures support abundant white clover and bluegrass seed, both of which are important forages for cattle. Soil seed banks, however, will not supply a diverse assemblage of useful forages. If a manager seeks to establish diverse, mixed-species pasture, then re-seeding pastures with desired mixes may be the best option.



Northeastern United States;Trifolium repens;seed banks;Poa pratensis;cutting;rotational grazing;cattle;seed germination;biomass;botanical composition

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