Natural reseeding and Trifolium repens demography in grazed hill pastures. 1. Flowerhead appearance and fate, and seed dynamics.
The appearance and fate (removal by livestock vs. natural ripening and eventual seed deposition) of Trifolium repens flowerheads were measured for 3 years under different sheep grazing managements and P fertilizer treatments in a range of topographical (slope/aspect) zones in New Zealand hill country. Variation in flowerhead production between fertilizer levels largely paralleled variation in T. repens content of the sward, but there was a strong trend for greater flowering activity per unit of T. repens under rotational grazing than under set stocking. At the individual plant level, variation in density of T. repens foliage explained only 5-10% of the variation in numbers of flowerheads. Flowering appeared to be strongly influenced by micro-environment and genotype. Removal of flowerheads by grazing stock was relatively consistent at 89-97% of flowerheads produced. On average, flowerheads were removed within 12 days of their appearance. Estimated seed yields were 275, 96 and 145 seeds/m2 (1.4, 0.5 and 0.8 kg/ha) for the 3 years, 75% of which were hards seeds. Annual seed input depended much more on the number of flowerheads produced and the proportion of flowerheads grazed than on variation in yield per flowerhead. Half-lives of buried seeds were estimated at 1 year or less, with only 13% of seeds still surviving after 18 months in a simulated seed return experiment. High turnover rates in the buried seed pool indicated that seed reserves were likely to be relatively recent in origin and an ineffective source of new plants within existing swards.