Plant Ecology

, Volume 213, Issue 11, pp 1739–1747 | Cite as

Frost damage and winter nitrogen uptake by the grass Poa pratensis L.: consequences for vegetative versus reproductive growth

  • Andrey V. Malyshev
  • Hugh A. L. HenryEmail author


Frost damage can decrease nitrogen uptake by grasses over winter, and it can also decrease biomass production over the following growing season. However, it is not clear to what extent reduced nitrogen uptake over winter decreases grass production, or whether is it merely a symptom of root damage. We examined the growth response of the grass Poa pratensis L. (Kentucky bluegrass) to variation in the timing of freezing and nitrogen availability over winter in London, Ontario, Canada. All tillers were transplanted into untreated soil in early spring, and at peak seed maturation, root, shoot, and reproductive biomass were measured. There was an interaction between freezing and increased winter nitrogen availability, whereby nitrogen addition increased tiller biomass under ambient temperatures, but decreased tiller biomass in combination with a late winter freeze. The nitrogen response of ambient temperature tillers occurred primarily via increased seed production, whereas for frozen tillers seed production was generally absent. Our results support the hypothesis that nitrogen uptake over winter can increase growing season productivity in P. pratensis, but also demonstrate that increased nitrogen availability increases tiller vulnerability to frost. These results have important implications for grass responses to the alteration of soil freezing dynamics with climate change.


Biomass Freezing Grasses N uptake Seed production 



This research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant to H.A.L.H. and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship to A.V.M.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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