Submitted to: Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 6, 2012
Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Citation: Blank, R.R., Morgan, T.A. 2012. Suppression of Bromus tectorum L. by established perennial grasses: mechanisms-part one. Applied and Environmental Soil Science. DOI: 10.1155/2012/632172. Interpretive Summary: The exotic annual grass, cheatgrass, is responsible for ecosystem degradation throughout the intermountain west. Healthy perennial grass communities can suppress cheatgrass, but we lack mechanistic understanding of the process. We researched how established perennial grasses suppress cheatgrass through a series of greenhouse studies. We conclude that suppression is multifaceted involving reduced nutrient availability and decrease soil space. Our data cannot confirm or reject allelopathic suppression of cheatgrass. Understanding the mechanisms involved with suppression may lead to novel control strategies against cheatgrass.
Technical Abstract: Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass) is an Eurasian annual grass that has invaded ecosystems throughout the Intermountain west of the United States. Our purpose was to examine mechanisms by which established perennial grasses suppress the growth of B. tectorum. Using rhizotrons, the experiment was conducted over 5 growth cycles: (1) B. tectorum planted between perennial grasses; (2) perennials clipped and B. tectorum planted; (3) perennials clipped and B. tectorum planted into soil mixed with activated carbon; (4) perennials clipped, B. tectorum planted, and top-dressed with fertilizer, and; (5) perennial grasses killed and B. tectorum planted. Water was not limiting in this study. Response variables measured at the end of each growth cycle included above-groundmass and tissue nutrient concentrations. Relative to controls (B. tectorum without competition), established perennial grasses significantly hindered the growth of B. tectorum. Overall, biomass of B. tectorum, grown between established perennials, increased considerably after fertilizer addition and dramatically upon death of the perennials. Potential mechanisms involved in the suppression of B. tectorum include reduced nitrogen (possibly phosphorus) availability and coopting of biological soil space by perennial roots. Our data cannot confirm or reject allelopathic suppression. Understanding the mechanisms involved with suppression may lead to novel control strategies against B. tectorum.