Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version

September 2000


Published in JOURNAL OF RANGE MANAGEMENT 53(5), September 2000.


Tiller recruitment is an essential process for ensuring the perenniality of grasses. The timing and extent of tiller recruitment and the role of biennial tillers must be documented for key range species. Prairie sandreed [Calamovilfa longifolia (Hook) Scribn.] is an important grass in the Nebraska Sandhills for both ecological functioning and as a forage. The objective of this study was to document tiller recruitment patterns and the occurrence and contribution of current year and biennial tillers to biomass production in prairie sandreed at 2 locations in Nebraska. Tiller recruitment was monitored at 2-week periods throughout the growing season during a 2-year period. Newly emerged tillers were classified as intravaginal, extravaginal, or rhizomatous tillers and marked with colored wire. Prairie sandreed has an unimodal pattern of tiller recruitment and over 50% of the current year tillers emerged by mid-May and 80% by mid-June. Rate of tiller emergence and absolute number of emerged tillers were poorly correlated with short- and long-term precipitation totals (r < 0.3 P > 0.20). The year after new tillers were marked, biennial tillers and tillers initiated during the current-year were counted and clipped in September for biomass determination. Biennial tillers made up only 6 and 20% of the total tiller emergence at these locations and were generally only 30% as large as the new tillers. Extravaginal tillers composed over 78% of the biennial tiller population as a result of both their dominance in emerging populations and the higher percentage of tillers that survived the winter. Current year tillers contributed the most to prairie sandreed forage production and their emergence was largely completed by mid-June. The lack of a relationship between tiller recruitment and precipitation patterns, combined with previous studies of prairie sandreed, indicates that tiller recruitment involves a process that begins the previous growing season.