, Volume 201, Issue 2, pp 709-721
Date: 29 Jul 2008

Soil amendment effects on the exotic annual grass Bromus tectorum L. and facilitation of its growth by the native perennial grass Hilaria jamesii (Torr.) Benth

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Abstract

Greenhouse experiments were undertaken to identify soil factors that curtail growth of the exotic annual grass Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass) without significantly inhibiting growth of native perennial grasses (here represented by Hilaria jamesii [Torr.] Benth). We grew B. tectorum and H. jamesii alone (monoculture pots) and together (combination pots) in soil treatments that manipulated levels of soil phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Hilaria jamesii showed no decline when its aboveground biomass in any of the applied treatments was compared to the control in either the monoculture or combination pots. Monoculture pots of B. tectorum showed a decline in aboveground biomass with the addition of Na2HPO4 and K2HPO4. Interestingly, in pots where H. jamesii was present, the negative effect of these treatments was ameliorated. Whereas the presence of B. tectorum generally decreased the aboveground biomass of H. jamesii (comparing aboveground biomass in monoculture versus combination pots), the presence of H. jamesii resulted in an enhancement of B. tectorum aboveground biomass by up to 900%. We hypothesize that B. tectorum was able to obtain resources from H. jamesii, an action that benefited B. tectorum while generally harming H. jamesii. Possible ways resources may be gained by B. tectorum from native perennial grasses include (1) B. tectorum is protected from salt stress by native plants or associated soil biota; (2) when B. tectorum is grown with H. jamesii, the native soil biota is altered in a way that favors B. tectorum growth, including B. tectorum tapping into the mycorrhizal network of native plants and obtaining resources from them; (3) B. tectorum can take advantage of root exudates from native plants, including water and nutrients released by natives via hydraulic redistribution; and (4) B. tectorum is able to utilize some combination of the above mechanisms. In summary, land managers may find adding soil treatments can temporarily suppress B. tectorum and enhance the establishment of native plants. However, the extirpation of B. tectorum is unlikely, as many native grasses are likely to facilitate its growth.