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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Fact Sheet: Tapping into the pasture seed bank

item Sanderson, Matt

Submitted to: Extension Fact Sheets
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/4/2008
Publication Date: 4/4/2008
Citation: Sanderson, M.A. 2008. Fact Sheet: Tapping into the pasture seed bank. Northeast Pasture Consortium Fact Sheet 08.

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: A seed bank is a reserve of dormant seeds in the soil that enables some types of plants to re-establish themselves after a drastic disturbance of the established vegetation. In some ways it forms a “memory” for the pasture, a record of its vegetation history. To explore that history, we visited several farms across the northeast and took soil samples from a number of pastures. The soil samples were placed in the greenhouse and the seeds in the soil were allowed to germinate naturally. We then counted the number of emerged seedlings from each plant species. We found the equivalent of more than 8 million seeds per acre in the surface soil (the top four inches) from the seed bank study. These seeds came from 58 species of plants. Even though most of the seeds in the soil seed bank were annual forbs, the plants growing above ground were nearly all bluegrass and white clover. There was only a 44% correspondence between the plant species found in seeds below ground and the plants found growing aboveground.

Last Modified: 08/19/2017
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