No Trade-off Between Root Biomass and Aboveground Production in Lolium perenne
Although grasses have dense rooting systems, further improvements to rooting may increase nutrient uptake and drought resistance and reduce N leaching. Improved rooting of grasses in agricultural systems should, however, not reduce aboveground biomass allocation and yield. In two field experiments on sandy soil in The Netherlands, we measured the variation in grass yield of 16 varieties of Lolium perenne (Lp) during three years, and the root dry matter (RDM) at the end of the experiments. The Lp- varieties differed in aboveground and genetic characteristics such as productivity (classified according to the measured yields in the actual experiments), grass cover and ploidy. Results of the experiments show that RDM of perennial ryegrass differed significantly between varieties, and that these differences were not linked to grass yield. Our results indicate that it is possible to select perennial ryegrass varieties that combine high aboveground productivity with high RDM. Considering challenges in the areas of climate change, pollution and soil degradation, high yielding grass varieties with improved root systems could contribute to an efficient use of nutrients and water, and to erosion control, soil improvement and carbon sequestration.
KeywordsRoot mass Grass yield Lolium perenne varieties
This research was part of the project Bufferboeren, financed by the following Dutch institutions: Agricultural Innovation Bureau (LIB), Dairy Board (PZ), Brabant Water, Water Board Aa en Maas, Rabobank Bernheeze, Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA), NCB-fund and Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I&M). We want to thank the Dutch breeders association Plantum for the opportunity to take root samples after ending of the VCU trials.
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