, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 52-58

Continuous defoliation of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and white clover (Trifolium repens) and associated changes in the composition and activity of the microbial population of an upland grassland soil

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A microcosm study was conducted to investigate the effect of continuons plant defoliation on the composition and activity of microbial populations in the rhizosphere of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and white clover (Trifolium repens). Continuons defoliation of ryegrass and clover resulted in sigmficant (P <0.01) increases in soil microbial biomass, although whilst increases were measured from day 2 in soil sown with clover significant increases were only seen from day 21 in soil sown with ryegrass. These increases were paralleled, from day 10 onwards, by increases in the numbers of culturable bacteria. Numbers ofPsendomonas spp. also increased in the later stages of the study. No influence on culturable fungal populations was detected. Whilst shifts in the composition of the microbial populations were measured in response to defoliation there was little effect on microbial activity. No changes in either dehydrogenase activity or microbial respiration in the rhizosphere of ryegrass or clover were measured in response to defoliation, but both dehydrogenase activity and microbial respiration were greater in ryegrass than clover when values over the whole study were combined. Continuous defoliation resulted in significant (P <0.001) reductions in the root dry weight of ryegrass and clover, of the order 19% and 16%, respectively.