Get access

Effects of Initial Site Treatments on Early Growth and Three-Year Survival of Idaho Fescue


  • Kern Ewing

    1. Ecosystem Sciences Division, College of Forest Resources, Box 354115 University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, U.S.A. Tel.: 206 543-4426
    2. Fax: 206 685-9281
    Search for more papers by this author


Prairies in the Pacific Northwest have been actively restored for over a decade. Competition from non-native woody and herbaceous species has been presumed to be a major cause for the failure of restoration projects. In this research, plugs of the native prairie bunchgrass, Festuca idahoensis Elmer var. roemeri (Pavlick), were grown from seed in a nursery and transplanted into a grassland site dominated by non-native pasture grasses. The growth of the plants was followed for three years, and biomass of all volunteer plants was measured. Before planting, five treatments were applied to the plots: removal of vegetation by burning, removal of vegetation by an herbicide-and-till procedure, soil impoverishment by removal of organic matter, fertilizer application, and compost mulch application. Initial growth of Idaho fescue plugs was greatest with fertilizer and compost mulch. Plants grown in mulched plots were also able to photosynthesize later into the dry summer season. After the first year, plots initially fertilized or composted had the lowest survival rate of Idaho fescue. Impoverished and herbicide-and-till plots had the greatest 3-year survival. Mulched plots supported the greatest weed growth after three years. Stressful environments give a competitive advantage to Idaho fescue in prairie restoration projects. As weedy species increase, growth and survival of Idaho fescue decreases.