Effects of Rainfall, Moisture Stress, and Stocking Rate on the Persistence of White Clover Over 30 Years

  • Hutchinson K
  • King K
  • Wilkinson D
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The effects of spring rainfall; critical levels of summer moisture stress, and sheep stocking rates on the persistence of white clover (Trifolium repens cv. Huia) have been evaluated in a 30-year experiment (1964-93) based on sown, well-fertilised pasture. Plant species presence was measured each year as basal cover using a vertical 10-pin frame. Hits at ground level from 800 points/plot were recorded in late September on duplicate plots, which were set-stocked at 3 rates (10, 20 reduced to 15, 30 reduced to 20 d.s.e./ha). A soil-water model based on rainfall and tank evaporation was calibrated against on-site soil water measurements (0-260 mm) and used to predict soil water (mm) for weekly time steps over 30 years. Smoothing of long-term rainfall data (SYSTAT, Lowess) showed an overall decline in warm-season rainfall (October-March), which was punctuated by above-average (1969-74) and average runs of years (1983-90). Flexible smoothing splines (SAS) were used to indicate patterns of yearly white clover presence. For all stocking treatments, there were significant declines in the presence of white clover over 3 decades. At the highest stocking rate, the recovery of white clover following the 1965 drought was poor. Late summer (January-March) moisture stress, defined as the number of weeks when soil water (0-260 mm) was

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  • K. J. Hutchinson

  • K. L. King

  • D. R. Wilkinson

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