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Lincoln University Australie (2008)

Physiological effects of drought on perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.)

Butler, Tony

Titre : Physiological effects of drought on perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.)

Auteur : Butler, Tony

Grade : Master of Agricultural Science (2008)

Université de soutenance : Lincoln University Australie

The Canterbury plains are frequently exposed to summer drought and climate predictions forecast that the severity and frequency of summer drought will increase. The most commonly used pasture grass, perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), is drought sensitive. One possible method to maintain sward dry matter (DM) production under water stress is to use an alternative grass species such as tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). The objective of this research was to compare summer DM production of monoculture swards of perennial ryegrass and tall fescue under various seasonal drought regimes to study physiological and biochemical drought responses of each species. Data were collected over a period of two-summer seasons, Season One (2006-2007) and Season Two (2007-2008) in an automated rain shelter at Lincoln, Canterbury. Drought treatments included exposure of plants to a spring or autumn drought or a four-weekly "irrigated" drought regime. DM yields of the two species were similar under each watering regime. The control treatment, under non-limiting conditions, has the highest accumulated yield in both Season One and Two for ryegrass (17.1 and 15.7 t DM ha⁻¹) and tall fescue (18.8 and 16.0 t DM ⁻¹) respectively. Spring and autumn drought treatments were similar for the two species in accumulated yield in either season, however the exposure to drought stress returned yields lower than the control. Consistently, the lowest-yielding treatment was the four-weekly irrigated drought, which resulted in an average yield across species in Season One of 10.1 t DM ha⁻¹ and 8.35 t DM ha⁻¹ in Season Two. Growth rates of the swards were calculated using accumulated DM production against accumulated thermal time using a base temperature of 3°C for both species. The control treatments showed a strong linear relationship for both species in both seasons, though Season Two showed a period of approximately 390 °Cd of no growth. Spring growth was similar for all treatments until October when both the spring drought and four-weekly irrigated treatment deviated from the control as water stress commenced. Growth also ceased under autumn drought later in the season. The physiological drought responses between species and among treatments differed. Tall fescue under control conditions had the highest photosynthesis rates of 20.5 µmol CO₂ m⁻² s⁻¹,or 22% higher than ryegrass, whereas the four-weekly irrigated treatment showed no inter-species differences. Differences were also found for other gas exchange parameters. Physiological water use efficiency (phys WUE) in ryegrass was 15% greater than tall fescue in Season Two. Photosynthesis and gas exchange rates against leaf water potential showed declining gas flow in both species across all treatments in response to drying soil conditions and across all irrigation treatments. The osmo-protectant proline was 22% higher in concentration in ryegrass than in tall fescue in Season Two and increased in drought stressed treatments in both seasons. Water stress was found to reduce total chlorophyll concentrations in all treatments and in tall fescue, while little change occurred in the chlorophyll a:b ratio. In conclusion, the findings from this thesis suggest similar DM responses for the two species under drought. The findings suggests that tall fescue performs more as a "water user" under drought conditions, compared with perennial ryegrass, which is more a "water saver." Resonses to the changing environment to a point, before "shuttting up shop" through lower stomatal conductance


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