Nitrogen Fertilization Effects on Planting Stock Characteristics and Establishment Performance of Dwarf Elephantgrass
- G. A. Rusland,
- L. E. Sollenberger and
- C. S. Jones
‘Mott’ elephantgrass (Pennisetum purpureum Schum.) is a high-quality tropical forage that is vegetatively propagated using stems or stem cuttings. Mott is more difficult to establish than tall elephantgrass, and a better understanding is needed of management factors that affect its establishment. During 1987 through 1989, field studies were conducted on an Adamsville fine sand (hyperthermic, uncoated, Aquic Quartzipsamment). Objectives were to determine the effect of N fertilization of planting stock nurseries on chemical and physical characteristics and establishment performance of Mott stems, and to determine if relationships exist between planting stock characteristics and establishment performance. Nitrogen rates were 0, 50, 100, 200, 300, and 400 kg ha−1, and treatments were replicated twice for measurement of stem characteristics and three times for establishment performance. Stem length (31.0–40.5 cm), mass (10.4–14.8 g per stem), N concentration (8.9–16.0 g kg−1), N content (0.09–0.24 g per stem), and total nonstructural carbohydrate (TNC) content (0.97–1.33 g per stem) increased linearly with increasing N rate. Measures of establishment performance generally increased with increasing N rate in 1987 and 1989, years for which rainfall was near or above normal during the time when planting stock was growing. Drought during this period in 1988 resulted in lower values for most stem characteristics and for measures of establishment performance. Highest correlation coefficients (0.53–0.60) were observed between number of emerged shoots per row and the stem characteristics, length, mass, and TNC concentration and content. These data indicate that N fertilization of Mott nurseries (≥200 kg ha−1) and soil moisture during growth of planting stock are critical to subsequent establishment performance of planted stems, and that stem characteristics are correlated with establishment performance.
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