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Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Summer dormancy in Dactylis glomerata L.: the influence of season of sowing and a simulated mid-summer storm on two contrasting cultivars

M. R. Norton A B , F. Lelièvre A and F. Volaire A
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A Institut National de Recherche Agronomique (INRA), UMR System, 2 place Viala, 34060 Montpellier, France.

B Corresponding author; NSW Department of Primary Industries, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia, and School of Land and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia. Email:

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 57(5) 565-575
Submitted: 29 June 2005  Accepted: 3 January 2006   Published: 17 May 2006


A series of trials to increase understanding of the summer dormancy trait in Dactylis glomerata was conducted. Autumn-sown reproductive and younger, spring-sown plants of 2 drought-resistant cultivars, contrasting for summer dormancy, were established and then tested in summer 2002 under long drought, drought + mid-summer storm, or full irrigation. The autumn-sown reproductive plants of cv. Kasbah were summer dormant under all moisture regimes and exhibited the characteristic traits including growth cessation, rapid herbage senescence, and dehydration of surviving organs (–6.7 MPa). Cultivar Kasbah used 8% less soil water over the summer and also began to rehydrate its leaf bases from conserved soil water before the drought broke. The non-dormant cv. Medly grew for 10 days longer under drought and whenever moisture was applied; Medly also responded to the storm with a decline in dehydrin expression in leaf bases, whereas no decline occurred in Kasbah, presumably because it remained dormant and therefore much drier. The irrigated, younger, spring-sown swards of cv. Kasbah had restrained growth and produced only about 25% of the herbage of cv. Medly. Drought reduced activity and growth of young plants of both cultivars, but whereas Medly regrew in response to the storm, cv. Kasbah did not, indicating that dormancy, although only partially expressed after spring sowing, was reinforced by summer drought. A longer drought in 2003 caused a 22% loss of the basal cover in cv. Medly, whereas Kasbah fully maintained its sward and therefore produced a higher post-drought autumn yield. This work confirms summer dormancy as a powerful trait for improving persistence over long, dry summers.

Additional keywords: cocksfoot, orchardgrass, drought, dehydrin, persistence, pasture.


We thank Professor Shu Fukai for his guidance, Dr G. Norton for the immunoblots, Pascal Chapon and Edmond Belda for their dedicated assistance, and Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd for providing a Fellowship to Mark Norton. We also thank the three anonymous referees for valuable comments.


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