Comparative Morphology of Caucasian Old World Bluestem and Native Grasses
- Keith R. Harmoney *a and
- Karen R. Hickmanb
Caucasian old world bluestem (OWB) [Bothrichloa bladhii (Retz) S.T. Blake] has been widely introduced in the southern and central Great Plains as a perennial warm-season grass for forage and soil conservation. As a result of its widespread introduction, it has escaped into some native rangelands. Once established in native pastures, observations suggest that Caucasian OWB may mature earlier than native vegetation and may be avoided by grazing animals in mixed rangelands, thus altering grazing distribution and over utilizing native species. More advanced morphological development in grasses is also associated with lower forage quality and lower palatability. This study was conducted to examine if morphological development of Caucasian OWB and native perennial warm-season grass species differs. Monoculture stands of Caucasian OWB, big bluestem (Angropogon gerardii Vitman), little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash], and side-oats grama [Bouteloua curtipendula (Michx.) Torr.] were established in the spring of 2000. After the initiation of first growth in 2002 and 2003, vegetation was hand clipped each week for 8 wk and quantified for morphological stage of development according to the Nebraska staging method. In 2002, a drought season, Caucasian OWB had a greater mean stage weight (MSW) than the native species during Weeks 3 through 7 (P < 0.001). In 2003, Caucasian OWB began the season at a similar morphological stage as the native species, but had a rate of development that was 5 to 11 times greater than the native species. The last 3 wk of the sampling period, MSW of Caucasian OWB was greater than all three native species (P < 0.001). With more advanced morphological development in Caucasian OWB than the native grasses, declining forage quality could affect grazing preference and distribution patterns in mixed swards of Caucasian OWB and native species. The introduction of Caucasian OWB into native rangelands may have impacts that have yet to be understood.Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.
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