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Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is an important forage and conservation crop in North America but occurrences of naturalized alfalfa in rangelands are rare. A naturalized population of yellow-flowered alfalfa in mixed-grass prairie on the Grand River National Grassland in South Dakota has potential agricultural value for the region. Despite this value, the distribution pattern of this alfalfa among and within native plant communities in the northern Great Plains is unknown. Field studies were conducted from 2003 through 2006 along topographic positions at two sites where yellow-flowered alfalfa was naturalized to evaluate the relationships of yellow-flowered alfalfa on biomass production, cover, species diversity, and alfalfa seedbank distribution characteristics. High yellow-flowered alfalfa cover (>50%) was associated with increased total biomass and occurred exclusively in swales and toeslopes that had silty loam soils. However, species diversity and non-alfalfa biomass were reduced when yellow-flowered alfalfa cover was high. Yellow-flowered alfalfa cover was lower and species richness was higher on backslopes and shoulder areas where sandy loam soils were present. A strong positive linear association existed between yellow-flowered alfalfa cover and alfalfa seedbank density (r values ranged from 0.76 to 0.82, P < 0.0001). Greater than 99% of the seeds were viable but germination rate was only 4%, indicating a high percentage of hard seed in this alfalfa population. Naturalized yellow-flowered alfalfa was a dominant component of a stable, low diversity plant community composed of mainly introduced species in rich soils of swales/toeslopes that contributed to forage production and quality in mixed-grass prairie in the northern Great Plains.
American Journal of Plant Sciences
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Scientific Research Publishing
Copyright © 2019 by author(s) and Scientific Research Publishing
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Xu, Lan; Boe, Arvid; Johnson, Patricia; Gates, Roger N.; and Misar, Christopher G., "Distribution and Productivity of Naturalized Alfalfa in Mixed-Grass Prairie" (2019). Natural Resource Management Faculty Publications. 292.