Date of Award:

1988

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Range Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

James H. Richards

Abstract

The importance of several factors in limiting recovery from defoliation was investigated in field-grown plants of Agropyron desertorum and Agropyron spicatum exposed to drought , natural or irrigated conditions. Leaf extension rate, components of leaf area production, number of metabolically active axillary buds and carbohydrate availability were examined on the same plants immediately after defoliation and/or in the following spring from 1984 until 1986.

The diurnal course of leaf growth did not relate to turgor pressure in the expanded portion of leaf laminae. Rather growth was apparently associated with air temperature. Leaf extension rate was lower under drought than under better moisture levels during 1984 to 1986. For both species, reduced growth rates and shorter growth periods resulted in reduced tiller height, leaf number and leaf size under drought compared with natural or irrigated conditions in 1985 and 1986, but not in 1984. As a result, leaf area and/or yields were also lower under drought in 1985 and 1986, and lowest under drought plus defoliation in 1986. Production of daughter tillers immediately after defoliation was also lowest under drought.

Regrowth capacity of both species was not limited by axillary bud number, size or viability immediately after defoliation under any water level in 1986. In early spring, however, tiller number and growth were lower on clipped than on unclipped plants of both species under drought and irrigated conditions in 1986, and under all water levels in 1987; this resulted in considerably reduced photosynthetic canopies on clipped plants.

Crown and root total nonstructural carbohydrate (TNC) pools were higher under drought than under better moisture levels in A. desertorum and A. spicatum in early spring 1986. These high pools of TNC apparently enhanced the production of etiolated regrowth in both species when meristematic limitations did not exist in early spring.

The productive potential of both Agropyron species will probably not be affected following a late and severe defoliation under drought. However, vegetative growth and/or productivity, and probably the persistence of these species in the community, will be reduced after two or more years of late and heavy defoliations under drought.

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