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ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #303858

Research Project: Adaptive Rangeland Management of Livestock Grazing, Disturbance, and Climatic Variation

Location: Livestock and Range Research Laboratory

Title: Fire and nitrogen alter axillary bud number and activity in purple threeawn

Author
item RUSSELL, MORGAN - Texas A&M University
item Vermeire, Lance

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/11/2014
Publication Date: 1/15/2015
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/60510
Citation: Russell, M.L., Vermeire, L.T. 2015. Fire and nitrogen alter axillary bud number and activity in purple threeawn. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 68:65-70.

Interpretive Summary: Belowground accumulation of vegetative buds provides a reservoir of meristems that can be utilized following disturbance. Perennial grass bud banks are the primary source of nearly all tiller growth, yet understanding of fire and nitrogen effects on bud banks is limited. We tested effects of fire and nitrogen addition on bud banks of purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea Nutt.), a perennial warm-season bunchgrass. Fire (no fire, summer fire, fall fire) and nitrogen addition (0, 46, 80 kg · ha-1) treatments were applied in every fire-nitrogen treatment combination and axillary buds were evaluated on two similar sites in southeastern Montana one and two years after fire. Permanently marked plants were assessed for live tiller production and randomly selected tillers were sampled to determine active and dormant buds per tiller. Fire and nitrogen had opposite effects on axillary buds. Summer and fall fire reduced active buds by 42% relative to nonburned plots. Adding nitrogen at 46 or 80 kg · ha-1 increased active buds per tiller 60% compared to plots with no nitrogen addition. The number of dormant buds per tiller was similar across fire treatments and levels of nitrogen. Fire and nitrogen had interacting effects on total buds at the tiller level. Without nitrogen addition, fall and summer fire reduced total buds per tiller about 70%. Nitrogen had no effect on total buds per tiller for nonburned plants. However, total number of buds per tiller was greater with nitrogen addition following fall fire and increased with each increase in nitrogen following summer fire. Results indicate fire effectively controls purple threeawn through bud bank reduction and that nitrogen can stimulate bud production. Interacting effects of fire and nitrogen on buds reveal a potential source of inconsistency in nitrogen effects and a possible method of facilitating recovery of fire-sensitive bunchgrasses after fire.

Technical Abstract: Belowground accumulation of vegetative buds provides a reservoir of meristems that can be utilized following disturbance. Perennial grass bud banks are the primary source of nearly all tiller growth, yet understanding of fire and nitrogen effects on bud banks is limited. We tested effects of fire and nitrogen addition on bud banks of purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea Nutt.), a perennial C4 bunchgrass. Fire (no fire, summer fire, fall fire) and nitrogen addition (0, 46, 80 kg · ha-1) treatments were assigned in a completely randomized, fully factorial design and axillary buds were evaluated on two similar sites in southeastern Montana one and two years after fire. Permanently marked plants were assessed for live tiller production and randomly selected tillers were sampled to determine active and dormant buds per tiller. Fire and nitrogen had opposite effects on axillary buds. Summer and fall fire reduced active buds by 42% relative to nonburned plots. Adding nitrogen at 46 or 80 kg · ha-1 increased active buds per tiller 60% compared to plots with no nitrogen addition. The number of dormant buds per tiller was similar across fire treatments and levels of nitrogen. Fire and nitrogen had interacting effects on total buds at the tiller level. Without nitrogen addition, fall and summer fire reduced total buds per tiller about 70%. Nitrogen had no effect on total buds per tiller for nonburned plants. However, total number of buds per tiller was greater with nitrogen addition following fall fire and increased with each increase in nitrogen following summer fire. Results indicate fire effectively controls purple threeawn through bud bank reduction and that nitrogen can stimulate bud production. Interacting effects of fire and nitrogen on buds reveal a potential source of inconsistency in nitrogen effects and a possible method of facilitating recovery of fire-sensitive bunchgrasses after fire.