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Comparison of space‐plant versus sward plot selection in thickspike wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus)

Robins, Joseph G., Jensen, Kevin B.
Plant breeding 2019 v.138 no.1 pp. 114-120
Acer negundo, Elymus lanceolatus, cultivars, forage, genetic correlation, grasses, heritability, indigenous species, land restoration, leaves, perennials, plant breeding, rangelands, sward, Utah
Thickspike wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus [Scribn. & J.G. Sm.] Gould) is an important native perennial grass species used for rangeland revegetation in North America. Plant breeding efforts relying on space‐plant evaluations have resulted in limited improvement in this species. The purpose of this study was to characterize the performance of thickspike wheatgrass half‐sib families under space‐plant and sward plot evaluations, estimate the correlation between measured traits in both evaluation settings, and determine the validity of selecting thickspike wheatgrass for rangeland revegetation in the nontarget environment space‐plant plots. The study included 50 thickspike wheatgrass half‐sib families and five commercial cultivars and experimental populations which were evaluated over 3 years in space‐plant and sward plot evaluations at a field site in Box Elder County, Utah, USA. Collected data included stand percentage, flag leaf height, and herbage dry mass. Narrow‐sense heritability estimates were low to moderate (h² < 0.60) and Spearman and genetic correlation estimates among traits were also generally low to moderate. Overall, there was little evidence to suggest the use space‐plant evaluations in thickspike wheatgrass improvement programmes.