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Interactions between leaf lifespan and defoliation frequency in temperate and tropical pastures: a review

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Abstract:

Abstract

In continuously stocked swards or pastures the frequency at which individual tillers and individual leaves are defoliated by ruminant livestock, relative to leaf lifespan of the grass species within the sward, determines the proportion of each leaf defoliated before senescence, and hence the efficiency of harvesting of herbage. In this paper, sets of data obtained in a range of climatic conditions and with a range of grass species are used in order to document this relationship. It is shown that the frequency of defoliation of individual tillers or individual leaves is closely linked to the average stocking density used within a period of time for maintaining a steady state sward or pasture height, herbage mass or leaf area index. Consequently, any decrease in herbage growth rate should lead to a decrease in the efficiency of harvesting of herbage and then to a more than proportional decrease in total herbage consumption by ruminant livestock. These effects will be more important for grass species having short leaf lifespan than for species with long lifespan. In rotational stocking, the link between herbage growth rate and frequency of defoliation of leaves can be broken by controlling the grazing interval, so any decrease in herbage growth would not be systematically associated with a decrease in efficiency of harvesting of herbage. Rotational stocking should be more efficient than continuous stocking in low herbage production conditions, while in high herbage production systems rotational and continuous stocking would have similar efficiency. The implications of these conclusions for the management of swards and pastures to meet different objectives are discussed briefly.

Keywords: defoliation frequency; defoliation severity; grazing management; herbage use efficiency; leaf lifespan; stocking density

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2494.2009.00707.x

Affiliations: 1: Unité de Recherche Pluridisciplinaire Prairies et Plantes Fourragères, INRA, Lusignan, France 2: Departemento de Zootecnica, ESALQ Universidade de São Paulo, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil 3: INTA-EEA, Balcarce 7620, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina 4: Departamento de Produccion Animal, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, UNCPBA, Tandil, Argentina 5: Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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