The University of Arizona

Drought and grazing. IV. Blue grama and western wheatgrass.

E.J. Eneboe, B.F. Sowell, R.K. Heitschmidt, M.G. Karl, M.R. Haferkamp


An understanding of the impacts of grazing during and following drought on rangeland ecosystems is critical for developing effective drought management strategies. This study was designed to examine the effects of drought and grazing on blue grama [Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K) Lag. ex Griffiths] and western wheatgrass [Pascopyrum smithii Rydb. (Love)] tiller growth dynamics. Research was conducted from 1993 to 1996 at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory located near Miles City, Mont. An automated rainout shelter was used during 1994 to impose a severe late spring to early fall (May to October) drought on 6 of twelve, 5- x 10-m non-weighing lysimeters. Twice replicated grazing treatments were: 1) grazed both the year of (1994) and the year after (1995) drought; 2) grazed the year of and rested the year after drought; and 3) no grazing either year. Drought had minimal impact on tiller relative growth rates of plants grazed twice, although it reduced (P less than or equal to 0.01) rates of axillary tiller emergence for blue grama (79%) and western wheatgrass (91%), respectively. Defoliation periodically increased relative growth rates (P less than or equal to 0.05) and tiller emergence (P less than or equal to 0.01) of both species. Neither drought nor grazing affected tiller densities or tiller replacement rates of either species nor did they affect productivity of blue grama. Drought, however, reduced (P less than or equal to 0.01) productivity of western wheatgrass 50% in 1994 whereas grazing reduced productivity (P less than or equal to 0.01) by 46% in 1994 and 69% in 1995. Moderate stocking levels (40-50% utilization) during and after drought did not adversely affect the sustainability of these dominant native grasses.



Pascopyrum smithii;Bouteloua gracilis;tillering;growth rate;leaf water potential;precipitation;xylem water potential;drought injury;tillers;biomass production;sustainability;plant communities;drought;range management;phenology;Montana;grazing;soil water

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