Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Wildland Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Range Science

Committee Chair(s)

Philip J. Urness


Philip J. Urness


James H. Richards


Don D. Dwyer


This study evaluated the early establishment phase of various monocultures and mixed species plantings of Agropyron desertorum (AGDE), Medicago sativa (MESA), and Atriplex canescens (ATCA). The study was conducted under both greenhouse and field conditions. In the greenhouse, the experimental design was a split-plot, randomized-block design in time, using transplanted seedlings. The treatments were exposed to three water levels to determine species response to varying moisture availability. Plastic pots of 15.4 cm (diameter) by 17.9 cm (depth) were filled with 2,800 g of sandy-loam soil and brought to field capacity. The pots were weighted twice weekly and the water lost to evapotranspiration was replaced. The plants were measured for plant height on six occasions at two week intervals. On the last measurement date, plants were harvested for above-and-below ground biomass.

The field used the species treatment as in the greenhouse study and these were hand sown in 1 m2 plots. Using a line-source sprinkler system, species responses at four water levels were examined. Soil water content in the various field plots was determined at various depths via access tubes and a neutron soil moisture probe. The experimental design was a split-plot design in time. Seedling emergence was recorded daily for the first 35 days after seeding. Plant height was measured six times during the growing season. All the species were clipped, oven-dried, and weighed at the end of the experimental period in 1982.

In the greenhouse, AGDE was the dominant species, yet produced more in the MESA combination. MESA exhibited a marked decrease in production when grown with AGDE. ATCA showed a remarkable ability to survive under high water stress.

Variable soil water content created in the field resulted in significant differences in germination, emergence, and establishment among planting treatments. MESA germinated and emerged faster than AGDE and ATCA, allowing it to utilize water and nutrient resources earlier than the competing species. The greatest shoot production occurred when MESA grew alone. In the AGDE-MESA combination, shading apparently reduced AGDE growth and shoot production at the two most favorable water levels. ATCA exhibited poor germination and emergence in treatments with low soil water availability.



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