Frequency distribution of shoot weight of plants in populations of trifolium repens persisting by clonal growth in grazed pastures

Hay, M.J.M.; Thomas, V.J.; Brock, J.L.

Journal of Agricultural Science 115(1): 41-48


ISSN/ISBN: 0021-8596
DOI: 10.1017/s0021859600073895
Accession: 007361695

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Over two years (1984/85 and 1986/87), monthly sampling of shoots of white clover plants compared the populations of white clover in mixed swards at Palmerston North, New Zealand, under set stocking, rotational grazing and a combination of both systems, at a common stocking rate of 22.5 ewe equivalents/ha. The frequency distributions of shoot (or stolon) dry weight per plant in each population over the study period was described by a log-normal model, which indicated that the populations consisted of many small individuals and few large individuals. Such inequality of shoot dry weight within populations is commonly termed size hierarchy; a statistic giving a measure of such size hierarchy is the Gini coefficient. The populations under different managements had similar Gini coefficients which differed little among seasons or between years. Lack of significant correlation between the Gini coefficient and mean shoot dry weight per plant of each population indicated that, in these white clover populations, size hierarchy was independent of mean plant size. These results were considered in relation to the clonal growth of white clover in grazed swards and it is suggested that the variable nature of death of older basal stolons makes an important contribution to the variability in size of individual plants and hence to size hierarchy. As size hierarchy, as assessed by Gini coefficients, was relatively stable in these populations over 3 1/2 years, it appears that clonal growth of white clover incorporates sufficient variability within the growth and death processes at the individual plant level to maintain the size hierarchy, irrespective of variations in mean plant size of populations.