Crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum [L.] Gaertn.) and Russian wildrye (Elymus junceus Fisch.) are commonly used for reseeding in the more xeric Mixed Prairie of the Canadian prairies because they are perceived to be more productive than native species. However, they have been implicated in soil deterioration. The objectives of our study were to compare the aboveground net primary production and soil organic carbon (C) among monoculture communities of selected native grass species, crested wheatgrass, and Russian wildrye and to compare the native grass monocultures with their mixtures. In 1995, a 5-year study was initiated on Dark Brown Chernozemic (Typic Haploboroll) soil near Lethbridge, Alberta. Ten treatments consisting of monocultures of introduced and selected native species and mixtures of native species were established in a randomized complete block design with 4 replications. Aboveground net primary production and soil organic C were measured. Monocultures of 2 native species, green needlegrass (Stipa viridula Trin.) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis [H.B.K.] Lag. ex Steud.), were more productive than crested wheatgrass or Russian wildrye under both normal moisture and drought conditions. Monocultures of these native species also tended to be more productive than their mixtures. The western wheatgrass (A. smithii Rydb.) monoculture and the western wheatgrass–blue grama mixture experienced the greatest yield reduction as a result of drought. Treatment effects on soil organic C were not detected (P > 0.05) 5 years after seeding. Soils of the June grass (Koeleria macrantha [Ledeb.] J.A. Schultes f.) community had less (P < 0.05) macro-organic C than most other treatments.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2