Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Summer dormancy in Festuca arundinacea Schreb.; the influence of season of sowing and a simulated mid-summer storm on two contrasting cultivars

M. R. Norton A B C D , F. Volaire B and F. Lelièvre B

A NSW Dept. of Primary Industries, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Institut National de Recherche Agronomique (INRA), UMR System, 2 place Viala, 34060 Montpellier, France.

C School of Land and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 57(12) 1267-1277
Submitted: 13 March 2006  Accepted: 7 August 2006   Published: 21 November 2006


Due to the shortage of information on summer dormancy in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea, syn. Lolium arundinaceum), we tested the response of 2 cultivars of differing dormancy expression and growth stage to a range of summer moisture conditions, including full irrigation, drought, and a simulated mid-summer storm and analysed whether traits associated with summer dormancy conferred better survival under severe field drought. Autumn-sown reproductive and younger, spring-sown plants of 2 cultivars, claimed to exhibit contrasting summer dormancy, were established and then tested in summer 2002 under either long drought, drought + simulated mid-summer storm, or full irrigation. The autumn-sown reproductive plants of cv. Flecha exhibited traits that can be associated with partial summer dormancy since under summer irrigation they reduced aerial growth significantly and exhibited earlier herbage senescence. Moreover, cv. Flecha used 35% less soil water over the first summer. However, the water status of leaf bases of young vegetative tillers of both cultivars was similar under irrigation and also throughout most of the drought (leaf potential and water content maintained over –4 MPa and at approx. 1 g H2O/g DM, respectively). The summer-active cv. Demeter did not stop leaf elongation even in drought and produced twice as much biomass as Flecha under irrigation. Cultivar Demeter responded to the simulated storm with a decline in dehydrin expression in leaf bases, whereas no decline occurred in Flecha, presumably because it remained partially dormant. The younger, spring-sown swards of both cultivars had similar biomass production under summer irrigation but whereas Demeter regrew in response to the simulated storm, cv. Flecha did not, indicating that dormancy, although only partially expressed, was reinforced by summer drought. In all trials, cv. Flecha out-yielded Demeter in autumn regrowth. In particular, the severe drought in 2003 caused a 25% loss of the basal cover in cv. Demeter, whereas Flecha fully maintained its sward allowing it to produce a higher post-drought autumn yield. This work links summer dormancy with higher persistence over long, dry summers.

Additional keywords: tall fescue, drought, dehydrin, persistence, pasture, Lolium arundinaceum.


Assuero SG Matthew C Kemp P Barker DJ Mazzanti A 2002 Effects of water deficit on Mediterranean and temperate cultivars of tall fescue. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 53 29 40 doi:10.1071/AR01023

Biddiscombe EF Rogers AL Maller RA 1977 Summer dormancy, regeneration and persistence of perennial grasses in south-western Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 17 795 801 doi:10.1071/EA9770795

Bradford M 1976 A rapid and sensitive method for the quantification of microgram quantities of protein using the principle of protein-dye binding. Annals of Biochemistry 72 248 254 doi:10.1016/0003-2697(76)90527-3

Burns W 1946 Corm and bulb formation in plants, with special reference to the Gramineae. Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh 34 316 347

Close TJ 1996 Dehydrins: emergence of a biochemical role of a family of plant dehydration proteins. Physiologia Plantarum 97 795 803

Close TJ 1997 Dehydrins: a commonality in the response of plants to dehydration and low temperature. Physiologia Plantarum 100 291 296 doi:10.1111/j.1399-3054.1997.tb04785.x

Close TJ Fenton RD Moonan F 1993 A view of plant dehydrins using antibodies specific to the carboxy terminal peptide. Plant Molecular Biology 23 279 286 doi:10.1007/BF00029004

Ewing MA (2004) New trees and pastures — when, where and likely role in farming systems. In ‘Salinity solutions: Working with science and society’. (Eds A Ridley, P Feikema, S Bennet, MJ Rogers, R Wilkinson, J Hirth) (CRC for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity: Perth; CD-ROM: Bendigo, Vic.)

Garwood EA Sinclair J 1979 Use of water by six grass species. 2. Root distribution and use of soil water. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 93 25 35

Hennessy K , Page C , McInnes K , Jones R , Bathols J , Collins D , Jones D (2004) Climate change in New South Wales. Part 1. Past climate variability and projected changes in average climate. Available at: (Accessed 24 January 2006).

Hoen K 1968 Summer dormancy in Phalaris tuberosa L. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 19 227 239 doi:10.1071/AR9680227

Hoffman AA , Parsons PA (1993) ‘Evolutionary genetics and environmental stress.’ (Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK)

Ingram J Bartels D 1996 The molecular basis of dehydration tolerance in plants. Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology 47 377 403 doi:10.1146/annurev.arplant.47.1.377

Knight R 1960 The growth of cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L.) under spaced plant and sward conditions. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 11 457 472 doi:10.1071/AR9600457

Lang GA Early JD Martin GC Darnell RL 1987 Endo-, para-, and ecodormancy: physiological terminology and classification for dormancy research. HortScience 22 371 377

Laude HM 1953 The nature of summer dormancy in perennial grasses. Botanical Gazette 114 282 292

Le Houérou RN (1979) Resources and potential of the native flora for fodder and sown pasture production in the arid and semi-arid zones of North Africa. In ‘Arid land plant resources. Proceedings of the International Arid Lands Conference on Plant Resources’. Texas Tech University. (Eds JR Goodin, DK Northington) pp. 384–401. (International Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Land Studies, Texas Tech. University: Lubbock, TX)

Lodge GM Garden DL 2000 Grazing management studies in the Temperate Pasture Sustainability Key Program: site descriptions, treatments and data collection. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 40 133 142

Lolicato SJ 2000 Soil water dynamics and growth of perennial pasture species for dryland salinity control. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 40 37 46 doi:10.1071/EA99051

Lowien J , Harris C (2004) Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea). (Accessed 7 July 2006).

Malinowski DP Zuo H Kramp BA Muir JP Pinchak WE 2005 Obligatory summer-dormant cool-season perennial grasses for semiarid environments of the Southern Great Plains. Agronomy Journal 97 147 154

McWilliam JR 1968 The nature of the perennial response in Mediterranean grasses. 2. Senescence, summer dormancy, and survival in phalaris. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 19 397 409

Miller JE 2000 Flecha, syn. Grasslands Flecha. Plant Varieties Journal 13 31 32

Norton MR Lelievre F Volaire F 2006 Summer dormancy in Dactylis glomerata L., the influence of season of sowing and a simulated mid-summer storm on two contrasting cultivars. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 57 565 575

Ofir M Kerem D 1982 The effects of temperature and photoperiod on the onset of summer dormancy in Poa bulbosa L. Annals of Botany 50 259 264

Ofir M Kigel J 1998 Abscisic acid involvement in the induction of summer-dormancy in Poa bulbosa, a grass geophyte. Physiologia Plantarum 102 163 170

Ofir M Koller D 1974 Relationship between thermoinduction and photoinduction of flowering and dormancy in Hordeum bulbosum L., a perennial grass. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 1 259 270

Ofir M Koller D Negbi M 1967 Studies on the physiology of regeneration buds of Hordeum bulbosum. Botanical Gazette 128 25 34

Piano E , Pusceddu S (1989) Breeding new varieties of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) adapted to Mediterranean environments. In ‘XVI International Grassland Congress’. Nice, France. pp. 317–318. (Association Francaise pour la Production Fourragere: Versailles, France)

Reed KFM Clement SL Feely WF Clark B 2004 Improving tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) for cool-season vigour. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 44 873 881 doi:10.1071/EA03173

Ridley AM White RE Simpson RJ Callinan L 1997 Water use and drainage under phalaris, cocksfoot, and annual ryegrass pastures. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 48 1011 1023 doi:10.1071/A96157

Rogers AL Nicholas DA Maller RA Arnold GW 1976 Yield and persistence of selected perennial grasses in south-western Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 16 522 531 doi:10.1071/EA9760522

Silsbury JH 1961 A study of dormancy, survival, and other characteristics in Lolium perenne L. at Adelaide, S.A. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 12 1 9 doi:10.1071/AR9610001

Silsbury JH 1964 Tiller dynamics, growth and persistency of Lolium perenne L. and of Lolium rigidum Gaud. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 15 9 20 doi:10.1071/AR9640009

Stork PR Jerie PH 2003 Initial studies of the growth, nitrogen sequestering, and de-watering potential of perennial grass selections for use as nitrogen catch crops in orchards. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54 27 37 doi:10.1071/AR02080

Turner NC 1986 Adaptation to water deficits: a changing perspective. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 13 175 190

Virgona JM Bowcher A 2000 Effects of grazing interval on basal cover of four perennial grasses in a summer-dry environment. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 40 299 311

Volaire F 2002 Drought survival, summer dormancy and dehydrin accumulation in contrasting cultivars of Dactylis glomerata. Physiologia Plantarum 116 42 51 doi:10.1034/j.1399-3054.2002.1160106.x

Volaire F Conejero G Lelievre F 2001 Drought survival and dehydration tolerance in Dactylis glomerata and Poa bulbosa. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 28 743 754

Volaire F Lelievre F 2001 Drought survival in Dactylis glomerata and Festuca arundinacea under similar rooting conditions in tubes. Plant and Soil 229 225 234

Volaire F Norton MR Norton GM Lelievre F 2005 Seasonal patterns of growth, dehydrins and water-soluble carbohydrates in genotypes of Dactylis glomerata varying in summer dormancy. Annals of Botany 95 981 990 doi:10.1093/aob/mci102

Volaire F Thomas H Bertagne N Bourgeois E Gautier MF Lelievre F 1998 Survival and recovery of perennial forage grasses under prolonged Mediterranean drought: water status, solute accumulation, abscisic acid concentration and accumulation of dehydrin transcripts in bases of immature leaves. New Phytologist 140 451 460 doi:10.1046/j.1469-8137.1998.00287.x

Welling A Moritz T Palva ET Junttila O 2002 Independent activation of cold acclimation by low temperature and short photoperiod in hybrid aspen. Plant Physiology 129 1633 1641 doi:10.1104/pp.003814

Welling A Rinne P Vihera-Aarnio A Kontunen-Soppela S Heino P Palva ET 2004 Photoperiod and temperature differentially regulate the expression of two dehydrin genes during overwintering of birch (Betula pubescens Ehrh.). Journal of Experimental Botany 55 507 516 doi:10.1093/jxb/erh045

West CP Izekor E Turner KE Elmi AA 1993 Endophyte effects on gowth and persistence of tall fescue along a water-supply gradient. Agronomy Journal 85 264 270

Export Citation