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1 September 2008 Effects of Nitrogen Availability and Cheatgrass Competition on the Establishment of Vavilov Siberian Wheatgrass
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Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) is the most widespread invasive weed in sagebrush ecosystems of North America. Restoration of perennial vegetation is difficult and land managers have often used introduced bunchgrasses to restore degraded sagebrush communities. Our objective was to evaluate the potential of ‘Vavilov’ Siberian wheatgrass (Agropyron fragile [Roth] P. Candargy) to establish on cheatgrass-dominated sites. We examined Vavilov establishment in response to different levels of soil nitrogen availability by adding sucrose to the soil to promote nitrogen (N) immobilization and examined cheatgrass competition by seeding different levels of cheatgrass. We used a blocked split-split plot design with two sucrose levels (0 and 360 g · m−2), two levels of Vavilov (0 and 300 seeds · m−2), and five levels of cheatgrass (0, 150, 300, 600, and 1 200 seeds · m−2). Seeding was conducted in fall 2003 and 2004, and measurements were taken in June 2004, 2005, and 2006. Sucrose addition decreased availability of soil nitrate but not orthophosphate. In the first year after seeding, sucrose reduced cheatgrass density by 35% and decreased both cheatgrass biomass per square meter and seed production per square meter by 67%. These effects were temporary, and by the second year after seeding, there was a sevenfold increase in cheatgrass density. As a result, the effects of sucrose addition were no longer significant. Sucrose affected Vavilov growth, but not density, during the first year after seeding. Vavilov density decreased as cheatgrass seeding density increased. Short-term reductions in N or cheatgrass seed supply did not have long-term effects on cheatgrass and did not increase Vavilov establishment. Longer-term reductions in soil N, higher seeding densities, or more competitive plant materials are necessary to revegetate areas dominated by cheatgrass.

Received: 30 November 2007; Accepted: 1 May 2008; Published: 1 September 2008

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