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ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #330020

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

Location: Livestock and Range Research Laboratory

Title: Phenology of perennial native grass below-ground axillary buds in the northern mixed-grass prairie

Author
item RUSSELL, MORGAN - Texas A&M University
item Vermeire, Lance
item GANGULI, AMY - New Mexico State University
item Hendrickson, John

Submitted to: American Journal of Botany
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/9/2017
Publication Date: 6/16/2017
Publication URL: https://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/5763067
Citation: Russell, M.L., Vermeire, L.T., Ganguli, A.C., Hendrickson, J.R. 2017. Phenology of perennial native grass below-ground axillary buds in the northern mixed-grass prairie. American Journal of Botany. 104:915-923.

Interpretive Summary: More than 99% of new tiller formation in the North American tallgrass prairie originates from vegetative reproduction, however, belowground stages of bud development are unknown for most dominant native grasses, especially in mixed-grass prairies. Patterns of bud development are important factors contributing to overall bud recruitment, longevity, and dynamics, ultimately, influencing the resiliency of the bud bank with significant demographic and ecologic responses. We assessed patterns of belowground bud development, dormancy, and mortality associated with three perennial native grass species differing in photosynthetic pathways and growth form in the northern Great Plains. Temperature and soil moisture were measured below the soil surface of the plant crown to determine development thresholds for belowground buds. Dormant buds increased during winter for C4 species (P < 0.01); whereas, C3 species maintained limited dormant buds throughout winter. Soil temperature was a good predictor (C-statistic = 0.89) for C4 species bud development; whereas, soil moisture was a reliable predictor (C-statistic = 0.86) for C3 bud development. Distinct bud bank dynamics differences existed between C4 species blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and needle-and-thread (Hesperostipa comata), while western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) was intermediate, indicating there is likely a continuum between the C3 and C4 extremes rather than a stark difference.

Technical Abstract: Vegetative reproduction from belowground bud banks is the primary driver of grassland systems. Despite the importance of vegetative reproduction, the timing of belowground bud recruitment is unknown for most dominant, perennial native grasses as is the relationship between bud development and environmental factors. We assessed patterns of belowground bud development, dormancy, and mortality associated with three perennial native grass species differing in photosynthetic pathways and growth form in the northern Great Plains. Temperature and soil moisture were measured below the soil surface of the plant crown to determine development thresholds for belowground buds. Dormant buds increased during winter for C4 species (P < 0.01); whereas, C3 species maintained limited dormant buds throughout winter. Soil temperature was a good predictor (C-statistic = 0.89) for C4 species bud development; whereas, soil moisture was a reliable predictor (C-statistic = 0.86) for C3 bud development. Distinct bud bank dynamics differences existed between C4 species blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and needle-and-thread (Hesperostipa comata), while western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) was intermediate, indicating there is likely a continuum between the C3 and C4 extremes rather than a stark difference. The ability to predict belowground bud development could enhance the utilization of management tools to manipulate tiller recruitment from the bud bank based on phenology patterns. Patterns of bud dormancy and development will provide insight to the underlying mechanisms by which management practices and fluctuations in precipitation amount and growing season length can alter mixed-grass prairie plant community dynamics.