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Longevity of White Clover (Trifolium repens) Leaves, Stolons and Roots, and Consequences for Nitrogen Dynamics under Northern Temperate Climatic Conditions
- Sturite, Ievina, Henriksen, Trond Maukon, Breland, Tor Arvid
- Annals of botany 2007 v.100 no.1 pp. 33-40
- Trifolium repens, agroecosystems, death, growing season, harvesting, longevity, monitoring, nitrogen, nitrogen content, petioles, plant organs, pure stands, risk, roots, shoots, soil, spring, stolons, Norway
- BACKGROUND AND AIMS: White clover (Trifolium repens) is, due to nitrogen (N) fixation, important to the N dynamics of several northern temperate agroecosystems. This study aimed at monitoring growth and death of major white clover plant organs to assess their potential contribution to within-season N input and risk of off-season N losses. METHODS: White clover ('Snowy') was studied in a plot and root window experiment in southeast Norway (60°42'N, 10°51'E). Leaves, stolons and roots were tagged for lifespan measurement in harvested and unharvested stands during two experimental years. The availability of soil inorganic N was measured by plant root simulator (PRSTM) probes. KEY RESULTS: The longevity of leaves and petioles ranged from 21 to 86 d (mean = 59 d), of main stolon sections from 111 to over 677 d (mean = 411 d) and of roots from 27 to 621 d (mean = 290 d). About 60 % of the leaves produced had turned over by the end of the growing season and another 30 % had died or disappeared by the subsequent spring. Harvesting reduced the longevity of stolons and increased plant fragmentation, but did not decrease leaf or root lifespan or increase soil N availability. From the plant organ turnover data, it was estimated that the gross N input to the soil-plant system from white clover in pure stand during two growing seasons corresponded to a 2·5-fold increase over the total N in harvestable shoots. CONCLUSIONS: The short lifespan and poor over-wintering of leaves showed their potential importance as a nitrogen source in the soil-plant ecosystem but also their potential contribution to the risk of off-season N losses.