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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGING FORAGE AND GRAZING LANDS FOR MULTIPLE ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: The Effects of Pasture Fallowing on the Seed Bank and Forage Species Composition

Authors
item Goslee, Sarah
item Sanderson, Matt
item Gonet, Jeffery

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2009
Publication Date: June 21, 2009
Citation: Goslee, S.C., Sanderson, M.A., Gonet, J.M. 2009. THE EFFECTS OF PASTURE FALLOWING ON THE SEED BANK AND FORAGE SPECIES COMPOSITION. In: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings. American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings, June 21-23, 2009, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2009 CDROM.

Technical Abstract: Fallowing, the practice of leaving a pasture ungrazed during the growing season, is sometimes used as a tool for improving pasture quality by allowing grasses to reseed naturally. Fallowing has been shown to provide benefits in New Zealand, but has been adopted on rotationally-stocked farms in the northeastern United States with little or no quantitative assessment. Allowing the pasture to remain ungrazed may allow weedy species to produce seeds, not just forage species, and could reduce legume populations through shading. We measured the seed bank composition and above-ground vegetation in paddocks that had been fallowed from 0-6 yr previously on an organic dairy in Maryland. Transect sampling was used to characterize the canopy cover of the dominant species three times per year for three years (2004-2006). Germinable seed was identified from 5-cm soil cores collected in spring and autumn in 2005 and 2006. Tall fescue [Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) S.J. Darbyshire] and other forage grasses increased in the seed bank in autumn of the fallowing year and in the following spring, but these changes did not persist. Natural reseeding of tall fescue promoted by fallowing did not cause changes in the vegetation, but could lead to increased endophyte infection in the endophyte-free tall fescue originally planted. Short-term increases in weed abundance and decreases in legume cover were also observed, but again did not last more than two years past fallowing. Pasture fallowing did not lead to measurable improvements in forage species composition within the seed bank or the vegetation on this farm.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014