Response of black grama grass, <i>Bouteloua eriopoda</i>, to water and nitrogen in a northern Chihuahuan Desert grassland

TitleResponse of black grama grass, Bouteloua eriopoda, to water and nitrogen in a northern Chihuahuan Desert grassland
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsStephens GA, Whitford WG
Number of Pages53
Date Published1989
UniversityNew Mexico State University
CityLas Cruces, New Mexico
Thesis TypeM.S. Thesispp
Call Number00325
KeywordsBouteloua,nitrogen, Bouteloua,nitrogen amendment, Bouteloua,simulated rainfall, dissertation, dissertations, grassland,nutrient amendment, nitrogen,grass, simulated rainfall,Bouteloua, theses, thesis

The response of Bouteloua eriopoda, black grama, to irrigation and nitrogen fertilization was examined to test the hypothesis that, in desert grasslands, nitrogen availability is greater than in adjacent shrublands. Tiller growth was greater in irrigated plots (P < 0·05) while nitrogen had no significant effect on growth (P > 0·05). Nitrogen induced early flowering but water had a greater effect during the various phenological stages. Water affected flowering, mortality, insect damage, and biomass production.

Nitrogen and nitrogen plus water reduced root length of the experimental plants (P < 0·05). The short and mat-like roots of fertilized plants may allow use of the small rainfall events more efficiently than the plants which received only irrigation (46 out of 61 precipitation events were < 6 mm in size). There were no differences in the total biomass production of nitrogen-treated or water-nitrogen-treated subplots compared to controls. There was a higher nitrogen content of stems and leaves on plants from the irrigated-fertilized plots, but no significant differences among other treatments. Based on the large effects of irrigation in a third wet year (> 300 mm year-1) and marginal nitrogen effects, we conclude that productivity in Chihuahuan Desert Bouteloua eriopoda grasslands is less nitrogen limited than that of the Larrea shrublands. Further, productivity in this perennial desert grassland appears to be closely linked to rainfall with no temporal lags due to nitrogen immobilization.