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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effect of Soil Texture, Watering Frequency, and a Hydrogel on the Emergence and Survival of Coated Versus Uncoated Crested Wheatgrass Seeds

Authors
item Mangold, Jane
item Sheley, Roger

Submitted to: Ecological Restoration
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 8, 2006
Publication Date: March 1, 2007
Citation: Mangold, J.M., Sheley, R.L. 2007. Effect of soil texture, watering frequency, and a hydrogel on the emergence and survival of coated versus uncoated crested wheatgrass seeds. Ecological Restoration 25(1):6-11.

Interpretive Summary: Seedling establishment in degraded shrub-steppe often fails due to intense competition with weeds, highly variable environmental conditions, and limited soil moisture. We tested whether a commercially available seed coating and a water-retaining hydrogel would increase establishment of crested wheatgrass under three watering frequencies and two soil textures. Pots were filled with one of four soil treatments and seeded with treated or untreated seeds. The pots were assigned one of three watering treatments that varied in the amount and frequency of watering. Untreated seed resulted in greater seedling density than treated seed while the hydrogel benefitted emergence, biomass, and survivorship of crested wheatgrass seedlings. Watering three or five times per week increased emergence more than watering one time per week, but watering one time per week generally led to greater survivorship and biomass. Land managers who are attempting to revegetate degraded shrub-steppe may improve seedling establishment by using a water-retaining hydrogel to overcome soil moisture limitations.

Technical Abstract: Abstract Revegetation of degraded shrub-steppe often fails due to intense competition with weeds, highly variable environmental conditions, and limited soil moisture. The objective of this study was to test whether a commercially available seed conditioner and a water-retaining acrylamide copolymer hydrogel would increase seedling emergence and establishment of crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum [L.] Gaertner) under three watering frequencies and two soil textures. Pots were filled with one of four soil treatments: field soil, two parts field soil mixed with one part sand, field soil plus hydrogel, or field soil plus sand plus hydrogel. They were seeded with treated or nontreated seed and placed in a greenhouse for 66 days. The pots were assigned one of three watering treatments: 150 ml applied one time per week, 50 ml applied three times per week, or 30 ml applied five times per week. Seedling emergence was recorded at three and six weeks. At the end of 66 days, the numbers of seedlings that survived were counted and above ground biomass was collected, dried, and weighed. Nontreated seed had 1.6 times greater seedling density than treated seed. Incorporation of the acrylamide copolymer hydrogel into the potting medium conferred some benefit to emergence, biomass, and survivorship of crested wheatgrass seedlings. Watering frequency had the most consistent influence on seedling emergence, survival, and biomass. Watering three or five times per week increased emergence more than watering one time per week, but watering one time per week generally led to greater survivorship and biomass. This study suggests that the use of water-retaining hydrogels may help to overcome soil moisture limitations and improve seedling establishment during revegetation of degraded shrub-steppe.

Last Modified: 10/25/2014
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