Flowering does not decrease vegetative competitiveness of Lolium perenne

Jan Thiele, Rikke Bagger Jørgensen, Thure Pavlo Hauser

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    The theory of life-history evolution commonly assumes a trade-off between sexual and vegetative reproduction. Hence, production of flowers and fruits should have measurable costs in terms of reduced vegetative growth. This trade-off may be meaningful for breeding of forage and turf grasses as reduced flowering could free resources and increase productivity. But if so, less-flowering cultivars might be more competitive and invade natural swards. We tested for costs of sexual reproduction on vegetative propagation and competitiveness of the perennial grass Lolium perenne, one of the most important forage and turf grasses worldwide. We used the differences in vernalisation requirement between northern and southern European provenances to manipulate the degree of flowering. Over three growing seasons, we counted the number of flower stems and measured the clone diameter. The vernalisation treatments were successful in producing clones with largely differing degrees of flowering. However, we found no negative correlation between flowering and vegetative propagation and competitiveness. Early and strongly flowering southern provenances showed less clonal growth and higher mortality, but within provenances the response of clone diameter to flowering was positive or neutral. We conclude that investment of resources into flowering has no measurable costs on vegetative propagation and competitiveness of L. perenne. The apparent lack of costs of sexual reproduction could be explained by bet-hedging strategy that is focused on survival and growth rather than reproductive effort in order to maximise the life-time fitness.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
    Volume10
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)340-348
    ISSN1439-1791
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Keywords

    • Bio energy
    • Ecosystems, climate effects, greenhouse gasses

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