Agriculture and Food Systems - Theses

Permanent URI for this collection

Search Results

Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Root-shoot interactions in the growth of irrigated white clover
    Blaikie, Samuel James ( 1993)
    White clover pastures support the dairy industry in the irrigated area of northern Victoria. However, pasture production is low because conditions for root growth are sub-optimal, particularly under flood irrigation. This thesis investigated the possibility that the growth of white clover can be increased by reducing the limitations to root growth. A series of experiments examined the response of white clover plants to various soil-based treatments and quantified relationships between root and shoot growth. Plants were grown in intact soil cores in the greenhouse with shoot and root growth measured by destructive harvest. The cores were collected from a range of field sites that were characterised by their different soil physical properties and the variation in pasture yield they supported. Other cores contained a sand-based potting mix in which the conditions for root growth were superior to the most productive field soil. Despite the large effects of soil treatment on white clover production, the growth of shoots and roots was highly correlated (R2>0.95). A prerequisite of high shoot yield is, therefore, a large root system. In one experiment, soil drying or defoliation perturbed the correlation but this disruption was only temporary. In another,experiment, the repeated cycles of drought stress that accompanied a series of extended irrigation intervals had no effect on the relationships between shoot and root growth. In field soils, the restrictions to root growth could not be overcome by intensive irrigation and fertiliser management. However, plants in the treatments in which the soil physical properties had been modified produced 4.0 - 6.5 times as much shoot DM compared with the least productive treatment. This suggests that the potential to improve pasture yield by amelioration of the soil physical properties is very large. Two further experiments were conducted in which either the soil texture or the frequency of irrigation varied between the upper and lower sections of the soil cores. In both cases the production of shoots was correlated with total root production. However, when `unfavourable' conditions restricted the growth of roots in one layer, extra growth of roots in the `favourable' layer was not sufficient to compensate. As a consequence, both total root and shoot growth were reduced. Taken together, these results suggest that there is a large scope to improve the yield of white clover by removing the restrictions to root growth that currently exist in field soils. This will probably entail both amelioration of the soil physical properties and careful management with respect to water and fertiliser applications. However, if the experiments reported here accurately reflect the field situation, then the growth of white clover pastures can only be maximised if the entire root zone is modified.