Canopy, microenvironment, and nitrogen effects on summer recovery of tall fescue

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Virginia Tech


Stand losses in temperate grasses after summer defoliation of tall canopies inspired an investigation of microenvironmental and plant responses in tall fescue. Microenvironment and regrowth of tall fescue in response to mowing managements and nitrogen rates in spring that created different canopy structures was studied. In early spring, 50 and 160 kg/ha of N were applied. Mowing managements were: clipping at 4 or 8 cm biweekly, monthly, and in late June. In late June all 6 treatments were mowed to prescribed stubble heights with a seventh unmowed check. Canopy light regimes, leaf area index, and regrowth of tillers were monitored along with soil, fair, and shoot temperatures in stubbles after the June harvest. Mowing more frequently in spring decreased canopy yields of the June harvest, but increased leaf area (LAI) of stubbles as compared to spring-accumulated canopies. High nitrogen decreased specific leaf weights (SLW) in stubble leaves and increased LAI except in spring-accumulated canopies. Increased LAI decreased light penetration and canopy temperatures. Temperatures were highest in harvested spring-accumulated stubbles with a shift of 4-10 C between unharvested and harvested stands while radiation penetration into the stubble increased from 5 to 75% of total. Some large stand losses occurred in lodged portions of harvested Spring-accumulated plots. Generally, regrowth yields were not affected by prior clipping managements. Concentration of TNC was uniformly high with all treatments.