Our objective was to determine the short-term response of bluebunch wheatgrass and medusahead to defoliation of wheatgrass designed to stimulate regrowth through tillering. We hypothesized that defoliating bluebunch wheatgrass by 20% at the 3 to 3.5 leaf stage followed by a 50% defoliation at peak standing crop would increase its tillering and biomass production. Consequently, we expected a reduction of the density and biomass of medusahead over that of bluebunch wheatgrass defoliated 50% at peak standing crop. Treatments included four initial medusahead densities (200, 333, 444, 600 plants · m−2) created by hand-pulling and three defoliation regimes factorially arranged (12 treatment combinations) in a randomized complete-block design and replicated four times at two sites. In 2006 and 2007, defoliation was accomplished by hand-clipping bluebunch wheatgrass 1) by 50% once at peak standing crop (late June); 2) by 20% at the 3 to 3.5 leaf stage, then again to 50% at peak standing crop (mid May, late June); or 3) plants were not clipped. Density was sampled in 2006 and 2007, and biomass was harvested only at Star Mountain (near Riverside, Oregon) in 2007 because Warm Springs (near Drewsey, Oregon) was burned by a wildfire before final 2007 data could be collected. In 2006, no treatments applied at either site detectably altered the number of tillers produced by bluebunch wheatgrass nor did they affect bluebunch wheatgrass density or biomass in 2007 at Star Mountain. Changes in medusahead density were not detected in 2006, but this annual invasive grass increased in density and biomass in 2007 at Star Mountain in plots receiving two defoliations. The relatively short growing period caused by summer drought and the relative intolerance of bluebunch wheatgrass to grazing make the twice-over grazing an unlikely practice for arid rangelands in the western United States. In fact, it could possibly increase the risk of annual grass invasion.
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Vol. 62 • No. 3