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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #236591

Title: Virginia wildrye persistence and performance in riparian areas

item Sanderson, Matt
item Stout, Robert

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/17/2009
Publication Date: 4/20/2010
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Van Der Grinten, M., Stout, R.C. 2010. Virginia wildrye persistence and performance in riparian areas. Crop Science. 50(4):1546-1551.

Interpretive Summary: Programs such as Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) have created a need for more information on the suitability of locally adapted native grasses for the northeastern USA. Because of the nature of riparian areas, native plants used in CREP plantings must be able to withstand seasonally wet soils. We could not find any research information on the use of Virginia wildrye in conservation plantings, especially in wet soils, in the northeastern USA. In this research, we evaluated Virginia wildrye in three states on sites that would qualify for inclusion in the CREP program. Our results demonstrated that Virginia wildrye tolerated wet soils at all sites and seasonal flooding at some sites during three years. These data confirm its classification as a facultative wetland plant with medium tolerance to anaerobic conditions. Wildrye had moderate survival at bottom slope positions along a stream or ephemeral waterway; however, it was most vigorous and persistent at the top and mid slope positions. Populations from specific wildrye accessions could be used to develop broadly adapted plant material specifically selected for conservation uses in the Northeastern USA.

Technical Abstract: Virginia wildrye (Elymus virginicus L.), a perennial cool-season grass native to the northeastern USA, grows in moist bottomland areas and could be useful in revegetating riparian areas. In this field study, we compared nine populations of Virginia wildrye originally collected from Maryland, New York, and Vermont with a commercial ecotype and a cultivar (‘Omaha’) on wet soils at three locations. All entries were transplanted into single-row field plots of 17 plants per plot at Wye, Maryland; Klingerstown, Pennsylvania; and Big Flats, New York in April 2004. Rows were oriented perpendicular to the slope so that each accession was evaluated at the top, middle, and bottom slope positions. Survivorship, tillers per plant, and plant dry weight were assessed in 2007. Survivorship after 3 yr ranged from 46 to 77% for the nine populations and averaged 80% for the ecotype and cultivar. Populations of wildrye from Maryland and Vermont had poorer survival than the commercial ecotype or cultivar. Averaged across locations and wildrye entries, survivorship was nearly 80% at the top slope position and 60% at the bottom slope. Biomass and tillers per plant also decreased from the top to the bottom of the slope; however, the change was much greater at the Maryland site compared with other sites. Significant variation exists among wildrye populations in adaptation to riparian areas, which could be exploited in developing new plant material for conservation programs.