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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Performance of Pastures with High and Low Species Richness in Northeast Usa

Authors
item Barker, D - OHIO STATE UNIV.
item Sulc, R - OHIO STATE UNIV.
item Deak, A - PENN STATE UNIV.
item Hall, M - PENN STATE UNIV.
item Sanderson, Matt
item Bultemeier, T - OHIO STATE UNIV.

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 20, 2003
Publication Date: April 20, 2003
Citation: Barker, D.J., Sulc, R.M., Deak, A., Hall, M.H., Sanderson, M.A., Bultemeier, T.L. 2003. Performance of pastures with high and low species richness in Northeast USA. American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings. 12:172-176.

Interpretive Summary: Charles Darwin proposed greater production from species rich grasslands in 1872, but there is still uncertainty as to whether this is actually true. Our research aimed to add more data to this debate, and to attempt to make recommendations to the forage industry for seed mixtures for pasture sowings. We planted a range of simple and complex forage mixtures in Ohio and Pennsylvania during 2001, and measured forage production during 2002. We found strong positive relationships between the number of species sown and forage production. The highest yielding treatment in all seasons and at all sites had only 1-2 species sown, however, in most cases this was not significantly different from the 9-species treatment. It was concluded that although maximum forage yield might occur for 1-2 species mixtures of the best adapted species, the difficulty in predicting which species to use, and variation in the best species between spring and summer, suggests forage production might be most easily maximized from planting more complex mixtures of up to 12 species.

Technical Abstract: There is currently uncertainty in the relationship between species richness and forage production, with evidence supporting both positive and negative effects. To avoid the possible confounding effect of local-scale fertility as can occur in old pastures, replicated mixtures of 1 (or 2 species in PA), 3 (2 treatments), 6 and 9 species were planted in 195-420 ft2 plots at 2 sites in Ohio and at 1 site in Pennsylvania during 2001. Forage production, composition and quality were measured under grazing during 2002. Summer and fall of 2002 were drier than average and variation in production between seasons reflected species with tolerance of dry conditions. In all seasons and at all sites there was a strong positive relationship between the numbers of species sown and forage production. The highest yielding treatment in all seasons and at all sites had only 1-2 species sown (Tables 1 & 2), however, in most cases this was not significantly different from the 9-species treatment. Of particular interest was the exceptional spring and summer yield of chicory at Columbus. It was concluded that although maximum forage yield might occur for 1-2 species mixtures of the best adapted species, the difficulty in predicting which species to use, and variation in the best species between spring and summer, suggests forage production might be most easily maximized from planting in mixtures of up to 12 species.

Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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