A prediction from the herbivore optimization hypothesis is that for every combination of site/habitat type and plant community type there is a grazing intensity that causes a maximum increase in above-ground net primary productivity compared with the ungrazed control. NPP is defined as the rate of change in green, herbaceous biomass per unit time per unit area. We tested this hypothesis in the primary summer range of a growing population of wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) within the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, Northwest Territories, Canada. Plots (0.5 x 0.5 m) in graminoid meadows dominated by awned sedge (Carex atherodes) were either clipped at 3 cm, exposed to wood bison grazing, temporarily protected for 3 weeks, or permanently protected. This resulted in the removal of 100%, 0-79%, 0-79% or 0%, respectively, of shoot tissue available to wood bison. NPP of meadows clipped twice at 3 cm in 1986 was the same as control NPP at 5 study sites. In 1987, only the 2 most productive study sites of 1986 were intensively examined: plots clipped once in early summer increased in NPP by 120% and 133% compared to controls; NPP of meadows grazed by wood bison increased by 200% compared to controls at the most productive site, but remained the same as controls at the less productive site. Therefore, the herbivore optimization hypothesis was accepted at the 2 most productive sites in 1987, but rejected at all 5 study sites in 1986. In 1987, the standing crop of dead material was 258% and 142% higher in controls than in grazed plots at the 2 most productive sites. We think this dead material was responsible for the lower NPP observed in control plots.
Authors:B.L. Béres, N.Z. Lupwayi, F.J. Larney, B. Ellert, E.G. Smith, T.K. Turkington, D. Pageau, K. Semagn, and Z. Wang
Research indicates that not all crops respond similarly to cropping diversity and the response of triticale (× Triticosecale ssp.) has not been documented. We investigated the effects of rotational diversity on cereals in cropping sequences with canola (Brassica napus L.), field pea (Pisum sativum L.), or an intercrop (triticale:field pea). Six crop rotations were established consisting of two, 2-yr low diversity rotations (LDR) (continuous triticale (T-T_LDR) and triticale-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) (T-W_LDR)); three, 2-yr moderate diversity rotations (MDR) (triticale-field pea (T-P_MDR), triticale-canola (T-C_MDR), and a triticale: field pea intercrop (T- in P_MDR)); and one, 3-yr high diversity rotation (HDR) (canola-triticale-field pea (C-T-P_HDR)). The study was established in Lethbridge, Alberta (irrigated and rainfed); Swift Current (rainfed) and Canora (rainfed), Saskatchewan, Canada; and carried out from 2008 to 2014. Triticale grain yield for the 3-yr HDR was superior over the LDR rotations and the MDR triticale-field pea system; however, results were similar for triticale-canola, and removal of canola from the system caused a yield drag in triticale. Triticale biomass was superior for the 3-yr HDR. Moreover, along with improved triticale grain yield, the 3-yr HDR provided greater yield stability across environments. High rotational diversity (C-T-P_HDR) resulted in the highest soil microbial community and soil carbon concentration, whereas continuous triticale provided the lowest. Net economic returns were also superior for C-T-P_HDR ($670 ha–1) and the lowest for T-W_LDR ($458 ha–1). Overall, triticale responded positively to increased rotational diversity and displayed greater stability with the inclusion of field pea, leading to improved profitability and sustainability of the system.