Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Effects of water and nitrogen on growth and relative competitive ability of introduced versus native C4 grass species in the semi-arid Loess Plateau of China


Switchgrass is an introduced C4 grass in the semi-arid Loess Plateau of China, but there is a lack of information to assess its ecological invasive risk. In this study, Old World bluestems (native C4 grass) and switchgrass were sowed at five mixture ratios (8:0, 6:2, 4:4, 2:6 and 0:8) under two soil water levels (80% field capacity (FC) and 40% FC) and two nitrogen (N) treatments (0 and 100 mg N/kg dry soil, termed N0-unfertilized and N1-fertilized treatments, respectively) in a pot experiment in 2012. Biomass, root morphological traits and relative competitive abilities of these two species were analyzed. Results showed that biomass of both species was significantly greater under 80% FC or N fertilization, and switchgrass had a relatively larger root:shoot ratio (RSR). Total root length (TRL) and root surface area (RSA) of switchgrass were significantly higher under 80% FC irrespective of N treatment, while those of Old World bluestems were only significantly higher under N fertilization. N had no significant effect on TRL and RSA of switchgrass, while RSA of Old World bluestems significantly increased under 80% FC and N fertilization. Under 40% FC and N0-unfertilized treatment, the aggressivity of Old World bluestems was larger than zero at 2:6 and 4:4 mixture ratios of two species, whereas it was close to zero at 6:2 mixture ratio. Root competitive ability of switchgrass significantly increased under 80% FC or N fertilization. The aggressivity of Old World bluestems was negative at 6:2 mixture ratio under 80% FC and N fertilization, while it was positive at 2:6 mixture ratio. Switchgrass may become more aggressive when N deposition or rainfall increases, while a proper mixture ratio with appropriate water and N management could help with grassland management in the semi-arid Loess Plateau.


aggressivity, nitrogen deposition, relative competitive ability, root trait, water stress

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