Comparative forage yield, water use, and water use efficiency of alfalfa, crested wheatgrass and spring wheat in a semiarid climate in southern Saskatchewan.

Book Title: NA
Year Published: 2005
Month Published: NA
Author: Jefferson, P. G. ; Cutforth, H. W.
Book Group Author: NA

Crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum L. Gaertn.) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) are introduced forage species used for hay and grazing by cattle across western Canada. These species are well adapted to the semiarid region but their long-term responses to water stress have not been previously compared. Two alfalfa cultivars with contrasting root morphology (tap-rooted vs. creeping-rooted) and two crested wheatgrass (CWG) cultivars with different ploidy level (diploid vs. tetraploid) were compared with continuously cropped spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) for 6 yr at a semiarid location in western Canada. Soil water depletion, forage yield, water use efficiency, leaf water potential, osmotic potential and turgor were compared. There were no consistent differences between cultivars within alfalfa or CWG for variables measured. However, these two species exhibit different water stress response strategies. Leaf water potential of CWG was lower during midday stress period than that of alfalfa or wheat. Alfalfa apparently had greater capacity to osmotically adjust to avoid midday water stress and maintain higher turgor. Soil water use patterns changed as the stands aged. In the initial years of the trial, forage crops used soil water from upper layers of the profile. In later years, soil water was depleted down to 3 m by alfalfa and to 2 m by crested wheatgrass. Alfalfa was able to deplete soil water to lower concentrations than crested wheatgrass or wheat. Soil water depletion by wheat during the non-active growth season (after harvest to fall freeze-up) was much less than for CWG or alfalfa as expected for annual vs. perennial crops. As a result, more soil water was available to wheat during its active growth period. In the last 3 yr, the three species depleted all available soil water. Forage yield responses also changed over time. In the initial 3 yr, crested wheatgrass yielded as much as or more than alfalfa. For the last 3 yr of the experiment, alfalfa yielded more forage than crested wheatgrass. Forage crops deplete much more soil water during periods of aboveground growth dormancy than wheat. Water use efficiency of crested wheatgrass declined with stand age compared with fertilized continuous spring wheat. Alfalfa exhibited deep soil water extraction and apparent osmotic adjustment in response to water stress while CWG exhibited tolerance of low water potential during stress.

Pages: 877 - 888
Volume: 85
Number: 4
Journal: Canadian Journal of Plant Science
Journal ISO: NA
Organization: NA
Publisher: NA
ISSN: 0008-4220

crop yield, diploidy, drought, forage, leaf water potential,lucerne, plant morphology, plant water relations, ploidy, roots,semiarid climate, soil water, tetraploidy, water stress, water use,water use efficiency, wheat, Canada, Saskatchewan, Agropyron cristatum,Medicago, Medicago sativa, Triticum, Triticum aestivum, Agropyron,Poaceae, Cyperales, monocotyledons, angiosperms, Spermatophyta, plants,North America, America, Developed Countries, Commonwealth of Nations,OECD Countries, Medicago, Fabaceae, Fabales, dicotyledons, Canada,Triticum, Forage and Fodder Crops (FF007) (New March 2000), PlantMorphology and Structure (FF030), Plant Water Relations (FF062), PlantProduction (FF100), Soil Physics (JJ300)

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