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Staurothele nemorum is described as new to science from the southern Great Plains of central North America. The species is characterized by a thin, areolate, epilithic thallus, sessile perithecia, globose to oblong hymenial algal cells and 8-spored asci. Staurothele hymenogonia is restored to the North American flora, based on material from the south-western Great Plains. An updated key to North American members of Staurothele s. lat. is provided.
Urine is a critical nitrogen (N) input in temperate grazed grasslands and can drive substantial nitrous oxide (N2O) production in soils. However, it remains unclear how differences in the N input rate affect N2O fluxes and vary between different grassland soils. The effect of increasing urine N application on ammonium (NH4+), nitrite (NO2−) and nitrate (NO3−) concentrations and N2O production was tested in two grassland soils, a free-draining loam and an imperfectly drained sandy-loam. It was hypothesized that high-urine N application rates would lead to ammonia/ammonium (NH3/NH4+) accumulation influencing N transformation rates and N2O production which differ between grassland soils. Fresh cattle urine was applied at rates equivalent to 300 and 1000 kg N/ha in an aerobic incubation experiment. Soils were destructively sampled over 80 days to measure changes in inorganic-N and pH. The higher N addition rate was associated with elevated NH3 concentrations up to day 35 in soils, probably inhibiting NO2− to NO3− reduction. In contrast, there was no inhibition of nitrification in the 300 kg N/ha treatment. Cumulative N2O fluxes were greatest from the 300 kg N/ha treatment for the loam soil, but were greater for the sandy-loam under the 1000 kg N/ha treatment. The results also show that differences in soil properties, in particular carbon availability, can be important in regulating N transformation and N2O production. Collectively, these results demonstrate the proposed mechanism of nitrification inhibition at high-N input rates, driven by either high NH3/NH4 and/or increased levels of NH4HCO3 from urea hydrolysis.
The importance of spring grass in the diet of early lactation dairy cows has been widely acknowledged. Numerous studies completed on a plot/paddock basis have identified methods of increasing herbage availability in spring, but little focus was placed on how this impacts animal production. The aim of the current study was to investigate the impact of opening farm cover (OFC; grass availability on farm at turnout in spring; 1036 (high), 748 (medium) and 544 (low) kg DM/ha) and spring rotation length (fast – 56 days and normal – 63 days) on animal performance in early lactation and herbage production and quality. Spring rotation length had little effect on animal performance, herbage variables or sward composition. High OFC increased pre-grazing herbage mass, allowing for increased daily herbage allowance (DHA) compared to medium and low OFC. There was a reduced proportion of leaf in the sward of the high OFC compared to the low OFC, resulting in lower organic matter digestibility. Despite the reduction in sward quality observed as a consequence of achieving high OFC in spring, the greater DHA available to animals increased milk production (+1.4 kg milk/cow/day). Additionally, animals grazing a medium or low OFC had a greater requirement for silage supplementation in spring (+1.3 kg DM/cow/day). The benefits of the higher DHA highlighted in the current study suggest that autumn grazing management must be adapted to increase herbage availability in spring. However, the benefits observed in milk production did not persist beyond the first grazing rotation.
The natural grasslands in South America have soils with low phosphorus (P) availability (1.0 to 7.5 mg kg−1), possibly altering the absorption and accumulation of P in grasses. We evaluated the chemical fractionation of P in the leaves of the most important grasses present in these grasslands to better understand the mechanisms involved in the storage of P. The grasses studied were Axonopus affinis and Paspalum notatum (fast tissue cycling and high nutrient demand) and Andropogon lateralis and Aristida laevis (slow tissue cycling and low nutrient demand). They were grown in pots filled with an Ultisol with two levels of P: control, and addition of 50 mg P kg–1. The main P fractions were the inorganic soluble (44%) and P in RNA (26%). Addition of P increased the total P concentration, following the order A. affinis (140%) > P. notatum (116%) > A. lateralis (81%) > A. laevis (21%). In conclusion, the species A. affinis and P. notatum responded to P fertilization with high variation and accumulating P in less-structural chemical forms, such as inorganic P. The species A. lateralis and A. laevis showed low variation in the concentration of P forms, with higher P concentrations in structural forms.
The non-market values of changes in grassland management stimulated by changes in policies were estimated by choice modeling. Four-hundred twenty-seven residents of Hohhot city in Inner Mongolia were selected using the popular mobile phone application WeChat. Conditional logit (CL) and random parameter logit (RPL) models were estimated to analyze the preference of respondents for environmental and social attributes. Based on the preferred RPL model, the average per household willingness to pay over 10 years for the best policy outcome scenarios was estimated to be CNY892 (US$141). The total willingness to pay for this policy change, extrapolated to the population of Hohhot, was CNY208 million (US$33 million). The findings suggest that environmental and social outcomes are valuable to Chinese residents of a regional urban center. Such values should be viewed as a public financial base for market-based mechanisms for grassland protection both in China and internationally. WeChat proved to be convenient but required the application of extrapolation caveats relating to sample representation.
Unplowed native grasslands are among the most endangered ecosystems in the world, due in large part to their agricultural suitability and widespread conversion to cropland. Despite this, remaining locations of these species- and carbon-rich landscapes are neither well monitored nor effectively protected. A recent spike in US prices for corn (Zea mays) and soybeans (Glycine max) intensified incentives to bring new land into production, potentially hastening the conversion of grasslands to crops. We combined satellite-based land cover data with aerial photographs and a field-based inventory of remaining native grassland (hereafter prairie) in Minnesota to assess the areas, rates, and locations of prairie conversion since 2008. Our results reveal that during 2008–2012, prairie was converted at average annual rates more than four times greater than the previous decade and a half. Corn and soybeans were the initial crops planted on 73% of converted prairie, and more than 80% of conversion occurred in recently established conservation priority zones, thereby magnifying the urgency to protect these sites. Broader land-use trends in Minnesota suggest that expansion of both croplands and developed lands continues to threaten all grasslands, including the subset that is prairie, and that the growth of developed or built-up land may be amplifying the conversion pressure exerted by agriculture, though further research is needed. Despite the small total area of prairie lost, the multi-fold increase in conversion rates and the confirmation of native habitat clearing may have substantial conservation implications, especially given the very limited prairie that remains in the region. The overall results reveal challenges for federal policies, including a loophole in the crop insurance Sodsaver provision surrounding alfalfa hay and limitations in the current enforcement of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
LiGAPS-Beef (Livestock simulator for Generic analysis of Animal Production Systems – Beef cattle) is a generic, mechanistic model designed to quantify potential and feed-limited growth, which provides insight in the biophysical scope to increase beef production (i.e. yield gap). Furthermore, it enables identification of the bio-physical factors that define and limit growth, which provides insight in management strategies to mitigate yield gaps. The aim of this paper, third in a series of three, is to evaluate the performance of LiGAPS-Beef with independent experimental data. After model calibration, independent data were used from six experiments in Australia, one in Uruguay and one in the Netherlands. Experiments represented three cattle breeds, and a wide range of climates, feeding strategies and cattle growth rates. The mean difference between simulated and measured average daily gains (ADGs) was 137 g/day across all experiments, which equals 20.1% of the measured ADGs. The root mean square error was 170 g/day, which equals 25.0% of the measured ADGs. LiGAPS-Beef successfully simulated the factors that defined and limited growth during the experiments on a daily basis (genotype, heat stress, digestion capacity, energy deficiency and protein deficiency). The simulated factors complied well to the reported occurrence of heat stress, energy deficiency and protein deficiency at specific periods during the experiments. We conclude that the level of accuracy of LiGAPS-Beef is acceptable, and provides a good basis for acquiring insight in the potential and feed-limited production of cattle in different beef production systems across the world. Furthermore, its capacity to identify factors that define or limit growth and production provides scope to use the model for yield gap analysis.
Species conservation depends on accurate data, but for many lichens existing collections are geographically biased and contain many taxonomic errors. It is unclear whether ‘non-expert’, systematic monitoring schemes can address these sources of error, particularly for taxonomically challenging lichens (e.g. species requiring chemistry for accurate identification). In this case study we use the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI), a large-scale, systematic, multi-taxon monitoring programme, to better understand the ecology and distribution of a putative rare species, Cladonia rei. Collections of C. rei from Alberta dating from 1947 suggested the species was broadly distributed but rare, with seven accessioned specimens. We used comparative morphology, thin-layer chromatography and habitat modelling to compare historical records against more recent material from ABMI surveys. Contrary to the historical collections, ABMI samples suggest C. rei is almost entirely limited to the dry mixed grassland, northern fescue grassland and aspen parkland natural regions, and that within these ecosystems it is relatively common. The typical ecotype exhibited included a persistent primary thallus, podetia with a persistent basal cortex, and secondary squamules; typically they lacked cups, well-developed apothecia and fumarprotocetraric acid, and ramifications were sparse. Cladonia rei was consistently found in pastures and undisturbed grasslands that hosted relatively rich communities of epigeic lichens, thus it does not appear to act as a pioneer in Alberta or to commonly occupy the anthropogenic niches documented elsewhere. In summary, large-scale, systematic, non-targeted monitoring employing novices redressed issues of sample bias through almost 300 C. rei collections, simultaneously improving the ecological understanding of a putative rare species.
The potential to improve soils to help farmers and ranchers adapt to and mitigate climate change has generated significant enthusiasm. Within this discussion, grasslands have surfaced as being particularly important, due to their geographic range, their capacity to store substantial quantities of carbon relative to cultivated croplands and their potential role in mitigating droughts and floods. However, leveraging grasslands for climate change mitigation and adaptation will require a better understanding of how farmers and ranchers who rely on them for their livelihoods can improve management and related outcomes. To investigate opportunities for such improvements, we conducted a meta-analysis of field experiments that investigated how soil water infiltration rates are affected by a range of management options: adding complexity to grazing patterns, reducing stocking rates or extended rest from grazing. Further, to explore the relationships between observed changes in soil water infiltration and soil carbon, we identified papers that reported data on both metrics. We found that in 81.9% of all cases, responses of infiltration rates to identified management treatments (response ratios) were above zero, with infiltration rates increasing by 59.3 ± 7.3%. Mean response ratios from unique management categories were not significantly different, although the effect of extended rest (67.9 ± 8.5%, n = 140 from 31 experiments) was slightly higher than from reducing stocking rates (42.0 ± 10.8%; n = 63 from 17 experiments) or adding complexity (34.0 ± 14.1%, n = 17 from 11 experiments). We did not find a significant effect of several other variables, including treatment duration, mean annual precipitation or soil texture; however, analysis of aridity indices suggested that grazing management may have a slightly larger effect in more humid environments. Within our database, we found that 42% of complexity studies, 41% of stocking rate studies and 29% of extended rest studies also reported at least some measure of soil carbon. Within the subset of cases where both infiltration rates and carbon were reported, response ratios were largely positive for both variables (at least 64% of cases had positive mean response ratios in all management categories). Overall, our findings reveal that a variety of management strategies have the potential to improve soil water infiltration rates, with possible benefits for soil carbon as well. However, we identified a shortage of well-replicated and detailed experiments in all grazing management categories, and call for additional research of both soil water and soil carbon properties for these critical agroecosystems.
Effective control measures are required for the invasive forage grass smooth brome in native prairie to maintain native prairie diversity and function. The objective of this study was to assess the long-term effectiveness of glyphosate as a control method for smooth brome and to evaluate the subsequent recovery of native prairie species at Kernen Prairie near Saskatoon, SK, Canada. In 1999 and 2000, a total of forty 6- to 8-m-diameter patches of smooth brome were spot sprayed with glyphosate; community composition in each patch was monitored for 17 yr. Following glyphosate application, the abundance of smooth brome decreased, and recovery of native species richness and the abundance of important native species, including plains rough fescue, was observed. In the long term however, the elimination of smooth brome created empty niche space ultimately occupied by other invasive species, particularly Kentucky bluegrass. The spot application of glyphosate is thus an effective control method for reducing smooth brome in native prairie; however, maintaining desirable native species composition in this system posttreatment depends on other factors, including the presence of additional invasive species that may move in after the elimination of smooth brome.
Fungal spores, especially those of coprophilous fungi, are present in dung middens of Rhinoceros unicornis (greater one-horned rhinoceros) in both forest and grassland areas of the Kaziranga National Park, India. The presence of coprophilous fungi on rhino dung, chiefly Sporormiella, Saccobolus, Ascodesmis, Cercophora, and Sordaria, is documented for the first time. The Sporormiella–Ascodesmis–Saccobolus assemblage is abundant and characterizes the rhino dung in forest and grassland areas. The presence of coprophilous fungi spores allows for an examination of the relationship between rhinoceros ecology and the flora and other fauna in the region. The overall dataset is useful in interpreting the present and past distribution of rhino and other associated animals based on the relative abundance of different types of coprophilous fungi spores and their relationship to paleoherbivory and paleoecology in India and adjoining areas.
In this study, we investigated the potential of airborne imaging spectroscopy for in-season grassland yield estimation. We utilized an unmanned aerial vehicle and a hyperspectral imager to measure radiation, ranging from 455 to 780 nm. Initially, we assessed the spectral signature of five typical grassland species by principal component analysis, and identified a distinct reflectance difference, especially between the erectophil grasses and the planophil clover leaves. Then, we analyzed the reflectance of a typical Norwegian sward composition at different harvest dates. In order to estimate yields (dry matter, DM), several powered partial least squares (PPLS) regression and linear regression (LR) models were fitted to the reflectance data and prediction performance of these models were compared with that of simple LR models, based on selected vegetation indices and plant height. We achieved the highest prediction accuracies by means of PPLS, with relative errors of prediction from 9.1 to 11.8% (329 to 487 kg DM ha−1) for the individual harvest dates and 14.3% (558 kg DM ha−1) for a generalized model.
Controlled traffic farming (CTF) systems aim to reduce soil compaction by restricting machinery field traffic to permanent traffic lanes. Grass-clover silage production is generally associated with intensive field traffic, resulting in reduced silage clover content. If CTF can increase yield and clover content in grass-clover leys, this would reduce the need for grain and expensive protein concentrate in dairy cow feed rations. A mixed integer programming model was developed to evaluate the potential profitability of CTF in a dairy farm context. Existing field trial data were used to calculate the expected yield outcome of CTF, based on reductions in trafficked area. The results revealed that CTF increased profitability by up to €50/ha. Total machinery costs are likely to increase on converting to CTF, but variable machinery costs are likely to decrease.
Grassland silage management is generally ad hoc resulting in soil compaction damage. Literature suggests grass yield reductions of 5 to 74% through compaction (UK mean 13%), while a 2015 study, reported here, comparing grass dry matter (DM) yield between controlled traffic farming (CTF) and normal management (N), found a 13.5% (0.80 t ha−1) increase for CTF. Commercially available grass forage equipment with widths of 3 to 12 m set up for CTF reduced trafficked areas from 80%–90% for N to 40%–13%. Economic analysis based on 13% increase in DM for 2 and 3 cut systems, gave an increased grass value between £38 ha−1 and £98 ha−1. CTF for multi-cut grass silage effectively increases yields by reducing compaction and sward damage.
This study aims to evaluate actual biomass and N-uptake estimates with the Yara N-Sensor in intensively managed grass swards across several trial sites in Europe. The dataset was split by location into an independent calibration data (UK and Finland) and a validation data (Germany) for the first two cuts. Yara N-Sensor readings were better correlated with N-uptake (R2=0.71) than actual biomass (R2=0.53) for the 1st cut. At the 2nd cut, the R2 values for both parameters were higher (0.80 and 0.56). A cross-validation with a German grass trial indicated the potential for predicting N-uptake (R2>0.8). It can be concluded that the technology has the potential to guide management decisions and variable rate nitrogen application on European grass swards.
Great technological advances have been made in Precision Agriculture (PA) in the past decade, yet adoption of PA in intensive grassland areas in North West Europe is low. This is despite the fact that in these areas the market structures are suitable and there are highly developed agricultural and food industries offering great potential for the application of new technology. Specific inefficiencies in plant nutrient management in soil exist, which are not only limiting grass yields but are also causing environmental deterioration. Soil nutrient management efficiency could be greatly improved using PA techniques, but the complexity of grassland systems, coupled with a lack of calibration of sensors specific to grassland, together with local barriers, appear to be the reasons why PA adoption is poor in these areas. This paper reviews new and existing technology including soil and crop sensors, navigation devices, remote sensing and unmanned aerial vehicles. The suitability and readiness of these technologies for adoption in grassland areas is discussed, along with data interpretation issues, future perspectives and research opportunities.
Woolly distaff thistle is a long-lived winter annual that threatens the ranching and dairy industries within the North Coast counties of California, particularly the organic producers. No peer-reviewed publications have documented effective control options or integrated management approaches for this species. We conducted two experiments, each replicated, in Marin County, California. The first compared several conventional herbicides at two timings and rates, while the second compared a conventional herbicide treatment with organic and integrated organic control methods, including an organic herbicide (mixture of capric and caprylic acids). Results of the conventional herbicide treatments showed most spring applications (March or April) of aminopyralid, aminocyclopyrachlor, clopyralid, and combinations of aminopyralid + triclopyr, or aminocyclopyrachlor + chlorsulfuron had greater than 99% control of woolly distaff thistle with fewer than 1.5 seedlings per 27-m2 plot by the end of the growing season. Higher rates were generally necessary to achieve the same level of control with winter (January) applications. In the organic herbicide treatments, the most consistent treatment was a combination of mowing followed by 9% (v/v) or the organic herbicide. This treatment was slightly less effective compared with aminopyralid but did have better than 95% control of woolly distaff thistle. The results of this study provide control options for both conventional and organic ranching practices where woolly distaff thistle is a problem.
Effective conservation of global species diversity requires a clear understanding of spatial scales that support overall diversity across broad scales. Abandonment of semi-natural grasslands has increased their fragmentation and decreased their areal extent. We quantified diversity patterns of plant communities in Japan across hierarchical scales to facilitate the development of an effective nationwide strategy for conserving species diversity in remnant semi-natural grasslands. We applied additive partitioning of plant species diversity, using a nested hierarchical design at three spatial scales (quadrat, grassland, and western and eastern regions of Japan) for three groups of plant species (all species, grassland species and national Red Listed species). We consistently found lower proportions of among-quadrats diversity, and higher proportions of among-grasslands diversity and between-regions diversity in the overall diversity of the entire species complement than would be expected by chance. The high contribution of among-grasslands diversity to overall diversity suggests that each grassland had a unique species content. The second-ranking contributor to overall diversity differed between grassland species and Red Listed species: the second-ranking contributor for grassland species was diversity at the among-quadrats scale but the second-ranking contributor for all species and for Red Listed species was diversity at the between-regions scale. Thus, effective conservation of diversity of the entire species complement in remnant semi-natural grasslands requires preservation of beta diversity in individual grasslands. Our findings highlight the importance of strengthening local preservation and restoration activities within each grassland, and of nationwide strategies for conserving Red Listed species in remnant semi-natural grassland communities.
Endozoochorous dispersal of seeds by livestock has long attracted the attention of grassland scientists. However, little is known about seed dispersal after ingestion by Kazakh sheep on dry grasslands in the Tianshan Mountains. The objective of this experiment was to learn more about the recovery and germinability of seeds from 17 plant species after either actual or simulated ingestion (i.e. insertion through a rumen fistula) by Kazakh sheep. The passage time of seeds through the sheep gut ranged from 12 to 96 h. More than 80% of all recovered seeds were defecated 24–48 h after ingestion. The mean retention time of seeds in the gut ranged from 27.3 to 42.2 h. Seed recovery percentage ranged between 12.6 and 17.6% for leguminous species and between 0.8 and 3.2% for gramineous species. Seed recovery percentage was positively correlated with seed mass, but negatively correlated with seed shape. The germination percentages of the gramineous species were greater in the non-ingested treatment (66–98%) than in the simulated ingestion treatment (3–10%). In contrast, for leguminous species, seed germination percentages were greater in the simulated ingestion treatment (23–70%) than in the non-ingested one (5–12%). Seed germination percentage after simulated ingestion was positively correlated with seed mass, but negatively correlated with seed shape. In conclusion, leguminous seeds were more likely than gramineous ones to pass through the gut of Kazakh sheep and then germinate. Free-ranging Kazakh sheep can contribute to the spread of plant species, especially leguminous species, in the Tianshan Mountains.
Oedaleus asiaticus Bey. Bienko is a significant grasshopper pest species occurring in north Asian grasslands. Outbreaks often result in significant loss in grasses and economic losses. Interestingly, we found this grasshopper was mainly restricted to Stipa-dominated grassland. We suspected this may be related to the dominant grasses species, Stipa krylovii Roshev, and hypothesized that S. krylovii contributes to optimal growth performance and population distribution of O. asiaticus. A 4 year investigation showed that O. asiaticus density was positively correlated to the above-ground biomass of S. krylovii and O. asiaticus growth performance variables (survival rate, size, growth rate) were significantly higher in Stipa-dominated grassland. A feeding trial also showed that O. asiaticus had a higher growth performance when feeding exclusively on S. krylovii. In addition, the choice, consumption and the efficiency of conversion of ingested food (ECI) by O. asiaticus was highest for S. krylovii compared with other plant species found in the Asian grasslands. These ecological and biological traits revealed why O. asiaticus is strongly associated with Stipa-dominated grasslands. We concluded that the existence of S. krylovii benefited the growth performance and explained the distribution of O. asiaticus. These results are useful for improved pest management strategies and developing guidelines for the monitoring of grasshopper population dynamics against the background of vegetation succession and changing plant communities in response to activities such as grazing, fire and climate change.