Effects of cultivar and cutting frequency on dynamics of stolon growth and leaf appearance in white clover in mixed swards

A. Elgersma, Li Fengrui

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The hypothesis that dynamics of growth, branching of stolons and appearance of leaves are important for the persistence of white clover (Trifolium repens) in mixed swards was tested. The effect of cutting frequency and white clover cultivar on stolon and leaf dynamics was studied throughout the growing season in a field experiment. Mixtures of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and white clover cultivars with different leaf sizes, cvs. Alice, Gwenda and Retor, were evaluated for white clover persistence at two cutting frequencies. Stolon dynamics, stolon survival, leaf and node appearance rate, branching, flowering and stolon elongation rate were analysed and related to white clover content and yield. There were clear seasonal fluctuations in stolon and leaf characteristics. Stolon elongation rate and appearance rates of nodes, leaves and branches declined in autumn. Temperature and irradiation explained a major part of the variation of stolon elongation rate and leaf appearance rate and 25% of the variation in stolon branching rate. Significant and consistent differences in yield and botanical composition were found between mixtures. Mixtures with cv. Alice had the highest total and white clover yield and the highest white clover content, whereas mixtures with cv. Retor had the lowest yield and the lowest white clover content. Stolon elongation rate and stolon internode length were significantly higher in cv. Alice than in the other white clover cultivars, whereas cv. Retor had a significantly higher percentage of leaves with damage caused by insects and slugs than the other cultivars. Little support was found for the hypothesis that branching characteristics are a key component of competitive success in mixed pasture, as most measured branching characteristics were not associated with differences in white clover yield between cultivars and cutting regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-380
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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