The University of Arizona

Grazing impacts on litter and roots: perennial versus annual grasses.

E. Mapfumo, M.A. Naeth, V.S. Baron, A.C. Dick, D.S. Chanasyk


Soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) storage in grasslands is a function of litter and root mass production. Research on how annual grasses compare with perennials for above ground and below ground mass production, and contributions to the soil C pool under pasture management is scarce. The objective of this research was to evaluate grazing intensity effects on litter and root mass, C and N pools of perennial grasses, smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis L.) and meadow bromegrass (Bromus riparius Rhem.), and the annual grass, winter triticale (X Triticosecale Wittmack). Litter mass and C pool for the perennial grasses were greater than those for triticale. Litter C and N pools generally decreased with increased grazing intensity. Root mass was greater for the perennial grasses than for triticale at all grazing intensities. Meadow bromegrass generally produced more root mass than smooth bromegrass. Root C and N pools for triticale were 31 and 27%, respectively, of that for the perennial grasses. Estimated total C contribution (roots and litter) to the resistant soil organic C pool was 1.5 times greater for light compared to heavy grazing. Total C (litter + root) contribution for perennial grasses was 2.7 times greater than that for triticale. Perennial grasses provided a larger litter base and root system that promote greater storage of C in the soil compared with triticale.



carbon;Bromus inermis;Bromus riparius;triticale;autumn;annuals;sown grasslands;roots;root systems;perennials;Alberta;chemical composition;spring;weight;nitrogen;grazing intensity;soil chemistry;plant litter;seasonal variation

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