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EFFECT OF DROUGHT ON YIELD POTENTIAL OF
SELECTED GRASS SPECIES
KVASNOVSKY MICHAL, HODULIKOVA LUCIA, PECINOVA HANA,
KLUSONOVA IVA, KNOT PAVEL
Department of Animal Nutrition and Forage Production
Mendel University in Brno
Zemedelska 1, 613 00 Brno
Abstract: The main aim of this study was to evaluate the response of the production types of grasses
to stress-induced reduction of normal precipitation in relation to their production characteristics
and the structure of biological phytomass. The covers were established by planting of pre-grown plants
of the individual grass species in the spring of 2009 in the form of a small-plot experiment
in two blocks. Block A – normal precipitation mode, Block B – reduced precipitation mode consisting
in roofing of 50% of the experimental area coverage by a special film with a minimum reduction
of light conditions in order to drain a half of rainfall out of the area. In the crop year 2011 the annual
total Rainfall was relatively lower by 14.0% (632.8 mm) than the long-term average, i.e. 736 mm.
The species with the highest ability to create fodder of Dactylis glomerata significantly decreased fodder
production and formation of above-ground shoots due to reduced precipitation in meadow utilization. A
simile trend was also observed in the utilization in Festuca pratensis. The lowest reduction in production
due to drought appeared in Lolium perenne.
Key Words: Drought, Dactylis, Festuca, Lolium
In recent years, the increasingly frequent topic is climate change. This change (rising
temperatures, lengthening of the growing season, increasing evaporation) significantly affects
agricultural production in traditional production areas of Central Europe, as illustrated by example better
results in growing of corn on its northern or upper height limit. Changes in the amounts and timing of
rainfall events will probably affect ecosystem processes, including those that control carbon (C) cycling
and storage. In relation to the ongoing global warming, it is desirable to test resistance
of grass species to a lack of moisture. Seasonal variation in precipitation and temperature are important
controls of soil and plant processes in grasslands (Fiala et al. 2012).
Many species respond to drought by maintaining high water potential by reducing water losses or
better adsorption. Limitation of water losses can be reduced in the development of water stress
by rolling the leaves or fast closing stomata. The plants, however, not only reduce transpiration, but also
reduce photosynthesis and thus growth and development (Xu et al. 2006). Interaction of drought stress
with high temperature has a greater effect than the damaging effects of each stressor separately. There
is a loss of water by transpiration required for cooling and thus faster drying (Jiang, Huang 2001).
Almost a third of the fresh water that is consumed in Europe is used in agriculture, mostly
for irrigation (Flörkea, Alfami 2004).
A high water demand for creation of grass production is found in Novak (2008). The range
of transpiration coefficient of 600–800 l of water for production of 1 kg of dry matter of foyer points to
the differences between grass species. Rychnovska (1993) gives the daily maximum of transpiration in
production grasses (cock’s-foot, meadow fescue, timothy-grass) at the level of 10–30 mg· g−l of dry
matter per minute, and in case of grasses of hygrophyte character up to 60 mg· g−l of dry matter per
minute. On hot days, high evaporation causes a so-called saturation water deficit in grassland amounting
to ca. 20% of the water needs even if there is sufficient moisture in the soil.
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MATERIAL AND METHODS
Characterization of growing locality and experimental design
Experimental studies are conducted at the experimental site of the Mendel University in Brno, in
the Fodder Research Station of Vatín. From an agronomic categorization point of view it is
a potato-growing region, with altitude of 535 m.
• average annual temperature 6.9°C (of which for vegetation 12.6°C annual),
• amount of precipitation 736 mm (of which for vegetation 440 mm).
The covers were established by planting of pre-grown plants of the individual grass species
in the spring of 2009 in the form of a small-plot experiment in two blocks. Block A – normal
precipitation mode, Block B – reduced precipitation mode consisting in roofing of 50% of the
experimental area coverage by a special film with a minimum reduction of light conditions so as
to drain a half of rainfall out of the area. The mode of precipitation regulation was applied only
in the second year after planting for the reason of allowing the same conditions for initial growth
and development of plants. In the years 2010–2012, precipitation regulation was implemented during
the warm months, i.e. from 01. 04. to 31. 10.
Each variant consisted of planting 25 pcs of individuals grown in layouts of 200 × 200 mm
in triplicate (a, b, c). Planting was carried out in June 2009. In the first year, clearing the covers
of weeds was done manually. Harvest of the covers (individual plants) was carried out 2× a year only in
the year of establishment. From 2010 was subjected to a “model” 5-fold mowing grazing utilization and
3-fold mowing. NPK fertilizer was applied to the surface of the (dose of N 50 kg · ha-1) before planting.
In the next year’s crop fertilization was 150 kg N · ha-1, of which 1/3 NPK after hibernation and 2 more
doses after mowing LAV 27.5%.
The subject matter of monitoring and evaluation was a total of 3 grass species (Dactylis
glomerata, Festuca pratensis and Lolium perenne) and their suitable varieties, as for meadow
and grazing character (see the overview given below). Harvest of the covers (individual plants) was
carried out system of 3-fold mowing meadow utilization and “model” 5-fold mowing simulated grazing
Evaluation of inter-species differences in production and differences in production among
the water mode were subjected to the ANOVA test. Results were evaluated with Tukey's test.
Differences were declared to be statistically significant when P ≤ 0.05.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
When applying the simulated grazing 5-fold mowing utilization, was Dactylis glomerata with
total weight of 470.5 g · 1-1 plant in the average of moisture modes, then Lolium perenne and Festuca
pratensis with a relative decrease of 16.9% and 21.9%. In Dactylis glomerata, the production was even
slightly higher (rel. + 3.1%). In Lolium perenne there was a decline in production due to reduced
precipitation of rel. - 15.3%, while a conclusively lower production applies to years 2011 and 2012.
In Festuca pratensis the production was relatively reduced by - 11.9%. A lower production is conclusive
in 2012. Despite the overall lower fodder production, utilization of multiple mowing may be related to
better adaptation to an uneven course of precipitation during the growing season.
Influence of the year on differences in plant weight is generally very significant. In Lolium
perenne differences between the year 2010 and the two following harvest years are significant, with
a clear tendency to decreasing production capability and in both good moisture modes. In Dactylis
glomerata, there was a significant difference only of decline in production in the third year 2012
in the normal moisture mode. In Festuca pratensis there is a significant drop in production in the third
year 2012, too, in both moisture modes.
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Table 1 Weight of plants of grass species (in grams per plant) in dry state in simulated grazing utilization
(5 mowings), in two moisture mode, 2010–2012.
Weight of plants (g · l-1 piece) in dry matter ∑ 2010–2012
Rel. % 103.5 72.3 48.3 84.7
Rel. % 103.4 101.9 104.4 103.1
Rel. % 87.4 92.8 84.2 89.1
Different letters indicate statistically significant differences.
The highest weight of dry fodder plants for three harvest years and an average of both moisture
modes were achieved in Dactylis glomerata 586.4 g · 1-1 plant. Production in Lolium perenne 464.2
g · 1-1 plant and Festuca pratensis 453.7 g · 1-1 plant is relative lower by - 20.8% and 22.6%, which is a
significant difference. The effect of reduced precipitation was manifested in decreased production
at most in Dactylis glomerata to the level of 58.8%, further in Festuca pratensis by a decrease of 1/3
(rel. to 66.5%) and at least in Lolium perenne where the production dropped to the level of 90.1%.
However, a significant effect of reduced precipitation on production was, except for partial differences
in certain mowings, only found in Festuca pratensis and that was only in 2012. The influence of year
on production was significant.
Table 2 Weight of plants of grass species (in grams per plant) in dry state in meadow utilization
(3 mowings/year), in two moisture mode, 2010–2012
Weight of plants (g · l-1piece) in dry matter ∑ 2010–2012
Rel. % 73.9 75.4 51.6 66.5
Different letters indicate statistically significant differences.
The species with the highest ability to create fodder of Dactylis glomerata significantly decreased
fodder production and formation of above-ground shoots due to reduced precipitation
in meadow utilization. A simile trend was also observed in the utilization in Festuca pratensis.
The decrease in both production and the number of shoots was conclusive due to the year. The lowest
reduction in production due to drought appeared in Lolium perenne. In this species, production decreases
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significantly with ageing of the cover. In case of the grazing system, production of all grass species was
insignificantly lower as compared with meadow exploitation. The effect of drought
on decrease in production (in Lolium perenne) has not been proved.
The paper was prepared under the support from Grant IGA TP 2/2015: „Effect of selenium
on the quality of plant and animal production from the perspective of health safety“.
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Systems Research. Kassel: University of Kassel.
Jiang Y., Huang B. 2001. Drought and Heat Stress Injury to Two Cool-Season Turfgrasses in Relation
to Antioxidant Metabolism and Lipid Peroxidation. Crop Science, 41(2): 436–442.
Novak J. 2008. Pasienky, luky a travniky. 1st ed. Prievidza: Patria.
Rychnovska M. [ed] 1993. Structure and Functioning of Seminatural Meadows. Prague: Academia (et
Xu B. Li F., Shan L., Ma Y., Ichizen N., Huang J. 2006. Gas exchange, biomass partition, and water
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