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1 September 2009 Root Responses to Short-Lived Pulses of Soil Nutrients and Shoot Defoliation in Seedlings of Three Rangeland Grasses
JoséTulio Arredondo, Douglas A. Johnson
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Root proliferation is important in determining root foraging capability of rangeland grasses to unpredictable soil-nutrient pulses. However, root proliferation responses are often confounded by the inherent relative growth rate (RGR) of the particular species being compared. Additionally, inherent biomass allocation to roots (R:S ratio) can be associated with root RGR, hence likely influencing root foraging responses. The influence of relative growth rate and biomass allocation patterns on the speed and efficiency of root foraging responses at the critical seeding stage was examined in two important perennial rangeland grasses that occur widely in the Great Basin Region of the United States (Whitmar bluebunch wheatgrass [Pseudoroegneria spicata {Pursh} Löve] and Hycrest crested wheatgrass [Agropyron desertorum {Fisch. ex Link} Schult. × A. cristatum L. Gaert.]) as well as in the widespread exotic invasive annual grass, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.). Greenhouse-grown seedlings were exposed to four nutrient regimes: uniform–low, uniform–high, soil-nutrient pulse, soil-nutrient depletion, and to either no clipping or clipping (80% removal of standing shoot biomass). Hycrest was the only species that exhibited root proliferation responses to the short-lived nutrient pulse, and this response occurred through root elongation rather than initiation of lateral root branches. Overall, defoliation inhibited proliferation-based root responses to a larger extent than topological-based root responses. Defoliated plants of Hycrest interrupted root development (topological index did not change) following shoot defoliation compared to undefoliated plants. In contrast, root topological developmental patterns were the same for defoliated and undefoliated plants of Whitmar, whereas cheatgrass exhibited an intermediate response between Whitmar and Hycrest. Our results suggest that inherent biomass allocation to roots contributes to enhanced capabilities of proliferation-based root responses.

JoséTulio Arredondo and Douglas A. Johnson "Root Responses to Short-Lived Pulses of Soil Nutrients and Shoot Defoliation in Seedlings of Three Rangeland Grasses," Rangeland Ecology and Management 62(5), 470-479, (1 September 2009).
Received: 10 June 2008; Accepted: 1 June 2009; Published: 1 September 2009
Agropyron cristatum
Agropyron desertorum
Bromus tectorum
nutrient-enriched soil patches
Pseudoroegneria spicata
root foraging
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