CARBOHYDRATES IN ROOTS AND RHIZOMES OF PERENNIAL GRASSES

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Summary

Roots and rhizomes were sampled in a three-year-old grass ley during one year using a mesh bag method and soil coring. Samples, collected after different growth periods (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 12 months) and at different times of the year, were analyzed for carbohydrates and Klason lignin. Throughout the year the rhizomes contained more non-structural carbohydrates (20 to 40% of the organic matter) than the roots (1 to 8%). The non-structural carbohydrate content varied over the year with a maximum in autumn and minimum in early spring and summer after the first grass cut. Fructan was the predominant constituent in this fraction. Structural carbohydrates and Klason lignin showed relatively small variations over the annual cycle. The ratio between structural carbohydrates and Klason lignin showed little variation with time but differed between roots (19) and rhizomes (2.5). The xylose content was higher in the roots than in the rhizomes. Only small changes occurred with time in the relative composition of the structural carbohydrates. This consistency in composition implies that there was a difference between subterranean and aerial parts. In the latter, ageing is characterized by increased lignification and systematic changes in structural carbohydrates owing to the formation of secondary cell walls.

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