Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Published in Crop Sci. 43:1434–1440 (2003).


Selection at the seedling stage in grass breeding would be extremely useful if seedling traits are correlated to desired agronomic traits. The objective of this study was to evaluate seedling morphological development, plant growth, and field establishment of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) populations that were developed by divergent selection for seed- ling tiller number while selecting for high shoot weight. Six populations were evaluated: (i) ‘Pawnee’ big bluestem base, (ii) ‘Pathfinder’ switchgrass base, (iii) big bluestem multiple tiller, (iv) big bluestem single tiller, (v) switchgrass multiple tiller, and (vi) switchgrass single tiller. Field plots were seeded in spring 1999 and 2000 in a Kennebec silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Cumulic Hapludolls). Plants were excavated and evaluated during the growing season for shoot weight, root weight, and morphological stage of shoot and root systems. There were no major population differences in shoot weight, root weight, and morphological root stage. Shoot stage was higher for multiple tiller populations than single tiller populations 6 wk after emergence. Stand counts for all populations exceeded 10 seedlings per linear m of row, which is considered an acceptable stand density, and there were no consistent differences among populations. Populations divergently selected for seedling tiller number did not differ in ability to become established under field conditions because root systems apparently were not altered by the selection for seedling tiller number and weight. These results suggest that selection for high shoot weight did not improve seedling vigor in the field.