• Effects of Two Years of Irrigation on Revegetation of Coal Surface-Mined Land in Southeastern Montana

      Depuit, E. J.; Skilbred, C. L.; Coenenberg, J. G. (Society for Range Management, 1982-01-01)
      Responses of reseeded vegetation in the first two growing seasons (1978 and 1979) to irrigation on topsoiled sodic mine spoils are presented. In terms of above-ground productivity and stand composition, irrigation significantly promoted growth of seeded perennial grasses and legumes in total. This stimulation was most pronounced in 1979 for the cool-season grasses, slender wheatgrass, smooth bromegrass and western wheatgrass and the invading cool-season legume yellow sweetclover. Other cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses were stimulated by initial irrigation, but were either unaffected or retarded (due to competitive relationships) by continued irrigation. Productivity of invading annual weeds was significantly curtailed by irrigation by 1979. Although differences in composition occurred, total stand productivity was similar for irrigated and nonirrigated plots in 1978, a year of above-average precipitation. In 1979, a drier year, total stand productivity was nearly three times higher under irrigation than nonirrigation. In the first year of study (1978), a higher measured index of stand structural diversity occurred under irrigation. This relationship became reversed in 1979, with higher structural diversity in nonirrigated plots. Root biomass was significantly higher in nonirrigated than in irrigated plots. This difference between irrigation and nonirrigation was most pronounced in the applied topsoil zone. Root distribution was skewed towards shallowest soil depths under irrigation to a far greater extent than under nonirrigation.