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Keywords:

  • Bromus willdenowii Kunth.;
  • Dactylis glomerata L.;
  • intra- and interspecific initial competition;
  • tiller size;
  • tiller density;
  • hierarchies among plants;
  • pasture floristic composition

Abstract

This work analysed the regulatory structural mechanisms involved in the competitive interactions between the annual grass Bromus willdenowii Kunth. (BW = prairie grass) and the perennial C3 grass Dactylis glomerata L. (DG = orchardgrass) during pasture establishment. Four combinations of species (pure BW, pure DG, DG flanked by BW and BW flanked by DG plants), with and without winter nitrogen fertilization, were factorially arranged in a randomized complete block design. Data were recorded at two organization levels: tillers (three tiller age cohorts) and target plants. Annual neighbours caused a decrease in the number of living leaves in tillers of intermediate age of both species. This structural regulatory mechanism led to a decrease in tiller number per plant and, therefore, restricted the development of horizontal space occupation. Annual neighbours did not cause an increase in tiller size, measured as lamina length or pseudostem height, but decreased root biomass. As a consequence, annual neighbours did not lead the hierarchy in light capture, but limited species radical colonization and competitive ability for soil resources. Winter nitrogen fertilization only affected tiller size in older tillers. These findings emphasize the importance of the cultural decisions, as sowing densities and nitrogen fertilization, to optimize pasture floristic composition.