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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Root and Shoot Characteristics of Prairie Grass Compared to Tall Fescue Andsmooth Brome Grass During Establishment

Authors
item Shaffer J A,
item Jung G A,
item Usharani N P, - PENN STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 8, 1994
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: `Matua' prairie grass is attracting a lot of attention for it's ability to produce quality forage during the hot dry periods of summer when other cool-season forages are dormant, as well as for it's ability to grow during the cool fall season. These characteristics make `Matua' a candidate for inclusion in many different grazing systems. But for all the attention `Matua' has received, the nature of it's growth, and why it responds the way it does to drought and cold are not well understood. Since it is well known that growth during establishment has a profound impact on the way a plant responds later in life, we studied the way `Matua' responded during establishment compared to tall fescue and smooth bromegrass, two common forage species. `Matua', though slower to emerge than the other grasses, produced total top growth equal to the other species by first harvest. The most striking difference between `Matua' and the other species was how roots developed. At approximately 20 days after seeding there was no difference between `Matua' and the other species, but at first harvest ( 52 days after seeding) `Matua' had two to six times the number of roots at deeper soil depths (40 and 80 cm) than the other species. This ability to exploit the soil resources at deeper depths may help to explain why `Matua' is more drought tolerant than many other cool-season species.

Technical Abstract: The root and top characteristics of `Grasslands Matua' prairie grass (Bromus willdenowii, Kunth) during establishment were compared with `Johnstone' tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea, Schreb) and `Saratoga' smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis, Leyss). Grasslands Matua was slower to emerge than both tall fescue and smooth bromegrass, but by first harvest (fifty-two days after seeding), prairie grass had exceeded both grasses in tiller height. At harvest, prairie grass had a greater number of seed heads and a higher stem/leaf ratio than the other grasses. There was no difference in tiller populations, leaf area, leaf yield and stem yield between prairiegrass and smooth bromegrass at first harvest. Twenty days after seeding there were no differences in root length density among the three species. However by first harvest, prairie grass had a greater root length density at 20, 40, and 80 cm and a more even root distribution than the other grasses. Trend analysis resulted in linear, quadratic, and cubi responses for root growth with soil depth for smooth bromegrass, tall fescue, and prairie grass, respectively

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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