Field study of competition between medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae ssp. asperum (Simk.) Melderis) and squirreltail (Elymus elymoides (Raf.) Swezey) Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/1544bt83s

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  • Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae ssp. asperum (Simk.) Melderis) is a Eurasian annual grass that infests large areas of U.S. rangelands, dominating former bunchgrass/shrub sites. Squirreltail (Elymus elymoides (Raf.) Swezey) is a native perennial grass that has demonstrated the ability to establish in stands of medusahead. A study conducted on two sites near Burns, OR had the objectives of quantifying competition between medusahead and squirreltail, and determining the effect of moisture availability on competition. Two hundred plots were arranged in a factorial design. Measurements were taken of plant growth, seed production, soil moisture, and climate. Results for the two years are contrasting. The first year was very dry. Medusahead grew and reproduced well, producing a seed crop up to 10 times the amount planted; squirreltail grew poorly and did not reproduce. Samples of squirreltail seed retrieved from the plots in late summer were found to have remained dormant since seeding. The second year had above-average precipitation. Medusahead grew and reproduced well again. Squirreltail grew and reproduced abundantly on one of the sites, both on freshly-seeded plots and on plots containing dormant seeds and surviving plants from the previous year. In all cases, medusahead exhibited stronger interspecific and intraspecific competitive effects than did squirreltail seedlings. With adequate soil moisture, squirreltail reduced average weight and median seed production of individual medusahead plants, but did not reduce medusahead seed production per square meter. Medusahead succeeded in a drought year by utilizing deep soil moisture, and utilized shallower moisture in a wet year. During a wet year in plots containing mature squirreltail, medusahead utilized shallower moisture, while squirreltail strongly utilized much deeper moisture. Interspecific competitive interference by medusahead on squirreltail seedlings suggests the potential benefits of suppressing medusahead during the seeding year for squirreltail in a rehabilitation effort, especially if climatic conditions are conducive to squirreltail germination and establishment.
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