Competition for nitrogen between Australian native grasses and the introduced weed Nassella trichotoma.

Warwick Badgery, David Kemp, David L Michalk, Warren McG King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


' Background and Aims Nassella trichotoma is an unpalatable perennial grass weed that invades disturbed native grasslands in temperate regions of south-eastern Australia. This experiment investigated whether elevated N levels, often associated with disturbance, increases the competitiveness of N. trichotoma relative to C3 and C4 native Australian grasses. ' Methods A pot experiment investigated competitive interactions between four native grasses, two C3 species (Microlaena stipoides and Austrodanthonia racemosa) and two C4 species (Themeda australis and Bothriochloa macra), and N. trichotoma at three different N levels (equivalent to 0, 60 and 120 kg ha'1) and three competing densities (zero, one and eight neighbouring plants), using an additive design. ' Key Results All native grasses were competitive with N. trichotoma at low N levels, but only M. stipoides was competitive at high N. High densities of native grasses (8 : 1) had a major competitive effect on N. trichotoma at all N levels. The competitive ranking of native grasses, across all N levels, on N. trichotoma was: M. stipoides > A. racemosa > B. macra > T. australis. The C3 species were generally more competitive than the C4 species and C4 grasses were not inherently more productive at low N levels, in contrast to the results of other studies. ' Conclusion To resist invasion from N. trichotoma, these native grasses need to be maintained at a high density and/or biomass. The results do not support the theory that species such as N. trichotoma, with high tissues density, are always less competitive than those of low tissue density; in this case competitiveness depended on N levels. The ability of N. trichotoma to accumulate biomass at a higher rate than these native grasses, helps to explain why it is a major weed in disturbed Australian native grasslands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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