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The relationship between genotypic diversity and productivity has not been adequately explored in perennial forage production systems despite strong theoretical and empirical evidence supporting diversity's role in ecosystem functioning in other managed and unmanaged systems. We conducted a two-year field experiment with six cultivars of an agriculturally important forage grass, Lolium perenne L. (perennial ryegrass). Dry matter production of L. perenne and the weed community that emerged from the soil seed bank were measured each year in treatments that ranged from cultivar monocultures to three- and six-way cultivar mixtures, all sown at a constant seeding rate. Mean L. perenne dry matter production increased with increasing cultivar diversity and was highest in mixtures that contained cultivars representing the greatest additive trait range (calculated on rankings of three traits: winter hardiness, heading date, and tolerance to grazing). Mixtures had greater yields than those predicted by the mean of their component monoculture yields, but there was evidence that highly productive cultivars may have dampened over-yielding in mixtures. Weed abundance was correlated with L. perenne dry matter, but not L. perenne cultivar diversity. These results suggest that multi-cultivar mixtures may have utility as an approach to ecologically intensifying perennial forage production. Additional research will be necessary to determine the mechanisms responsible for the over-yielding observed in this study and the generality of these findings.
Ecological Society of America (ESA)
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Pollnac, F. W., R. G. Smith, and N. D. Warren. 2014. Cultivar diversity as a means of ecologically intensifying dry matter production in a perennial forage stand. Ecosphere 5(9):115. https://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00139.1
Copyright: © 2014 Pollnac et al.