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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Presence of soil surface depressions increases water uptake by native grass seeds.

Authors
item Mangold, Jane
item James, Jeremy
item Sheley, Roger

Submitted to: Ecological Restoration
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 13, 2007
Publication Date: December 1, 2007
Citation: Mangold, J.M., James, J.J., Sheley, R.L. 2007. Presence of soil surface depressions increases water uptake by native grass seeds.. Ecological Restoration. 25(4):278-279

Interpretive Summary: Our objective was to test whether seed size and safe site size affected water uptake by seeds and seedling emergence. We conducted a greenhouse study with four native grasses with seeds that spanned a gradient of sizes, four safe site sizes, and two watering frequencies. We also conducted a bench study that tested the effect of the same four species and safe site sizes on water uptake by seeds at 24, 36, and 72 hours after seeds were placed in the safe sites. In general, seedling emergence was unaffected by safe site size. Emergence of squirreltail nearly doubled in the medium and large safe sites when compared to the control. Water uptake by seeds nearly doubled in the safe sites compared to the control. The size of the safe site did not affect water uptake. Our study suggested that while seedbed preparation is important, the minute details of the procedure may not be critical when attempting to create a hospitable environment for seedling establishment. Providing safe sites may improve water uptake by seeds, but the size of those safe sites may be of less importance.

Technical Abstract: Characteristics of the microsite that provide conditions suitable for establishment (i.e. “safe site”) have not been well-defined for a majority of plant species used in restoration. The safe site concept would be more applicable to management if predictive relationships between seed morphology and safe site requirements were clearly identified. We investigated whether seed size and safe site size affected water uptake by seeds and seedling emergence by conducting a greenhouse study that tested the effect of four native grass seeds that spanned a gradient of sizes, four safe site sizes, and two watering frequencies on seedling emergence. Simultaneously, we conducted a bench study that tested the effect of the same four species and safe site sizes on water uptake by seeds at 24, 36, and 72 hours after seeds were placed in the safe sites. Seedling emergence was unaffected by safe site size, but varied by species with Idaho fescue displaying the highest emergence at 38%. Squirreltail responded to safe site size at P=0.10 with emergence nearly doubling in the medium and large safe sites when compared to the control. Water uptake by seeds nearly doubled in the safe sites compared to the control. The size of the safe site did not affect water uptake. Squirreltail seed displayed the lowest cumulative water uptake at 169% dry weight (DW) compared to other species which averaged about 220%DW. Our study suggested that while seedbed preparation is important, the minute details of the procedure may not be critical when attempting to create a hospitable environment for seedling establishment. Providing safe sites may improve water uptake by seeds, but the size of those safe sites may be of less importance.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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