• Defoliation of Thurber needlegrass: herbage and root responses

      Ganskopp, D. (Society for Range Management, 1988-11-01)
      Thurber needlegrass (Stipa thurberiana Piper) is an important component of both forested and shrub-steppe communities of the Pacific Northwest and Great Basin regions, and little is known of its tolerance to defoliation. A study was conducted on the Squaw Butte Experimental Range to determine the response of containerized Thurber needlegrass to single defoliations (2.5-cm stubble) throughout the growing season. Dates of treatment spanned vegetative through quiescent stages of phenology. Response variables included: summer regrowth, number of reproductive stems, fall growth, and subsequent spring herbage production, change in basal area, and root mass. Vigor of Thurber needlegrass was reduced most by defoliation during the early-boot stage of development. Impacts were successively less severe from vegetative, late-boot, and anthesis treatments, respectively. Cumulative herbage production the year of treatment was reduced from 38 to 64% by defoliation at the early-boot stage. The same treatment reduced subsequent spring growth by 46 to 51% and root mass the next spring by 34 to 45%. Treatment effects were somewhat reduced when temperature and moisture regimes allowed substantial regrowth after defoliation. Defoliation during or after anthesis had little effect on plant response. Managers should be aware that a single defoliation, particularly during the boot stage, can significantly reduce subsequent herbage production and root mass and possibly lower the competitive ability of Thurber needlegrass.