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The relationship between tiller appearance in spring and contribution to dry-matter yield in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cultivars differing in heading date

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The relative contribution of tillers present in April and those appearing in consecutive periods in spring was assessed for perennial ryegrass cultivars in the three maturity groups (early, intermediate- and late-heading). Each group was represented by two diploid and one tetraploid cultivar each in plots in their third (2000) and fourth (2001) harvest years in three replicated blocks receiving an average of 325 kg N ha−1 and cut seven (in 2001) or eight (in 2000) times annually. ‘Main’ tillers and their daughters were marked with colour-coded PVC-covered wire loops in early April as were daughters which appeared in consecutive periods between harvests, the loop colour identifying the period of origin of the tiller. Tillers were harvested at cutting height (5 cm) before the plots were harvested and the herbage from tillers with the same colour code bulked per plot. Tillers were identified retrospectively as ‘reproductive’ if they had been decapitated at the previous harvest.

Dry-matter yield was higher in the early than late-heading cultivars in April and early May but this was reversed in harvests in late May and June. The early heading group had a lower lamina content than the late-heading group during reproduction growth, both due to the reproductive tillers (mainly those which overwintered) having a lower leaf content and to their being fewer and smaller vegetative tillers during the reproductive phase than for the late-heading group.

Turnover of tillers was high in spring due to decapitation of reproductive tillers and rapid post-flowering tillering. This was particularly pronounced in the early heading group which also had slightly more tillers marked in April which were subsequently decapitated than in the other maturity groups, i.e. 0·56 compared with 0·44 for the late-maturing group. Mean ratios of rate of death: rate of tillering for 3 years (1999–2001) for the early and late-heading groups were 0·8 and 0·4, respectively, for April–May and 1·1 and 2·4, respectively, for June indicating the different patterns in tiller turnover for the two extreme maturity groups. Information on tiller origin and contribution to yield can be used to refine tiller-based grass growth models.
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Keywords: flowering; leaf content; tiller turnover; tillering

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2005

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