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The effect of boron supply on the growth and seed production of subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.)

BS Dear and J Lipsett

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 38(3) 537 - 546
Published: 1987


There has been little research on the boron (B) status of subterranean clover, despite strong indications of deficiency of B in southern Australia where clover decline has been reported. This paper describes glasshouse experiments to vary the level of B supply to clover grown on soils low in B. On a soil farmed in a cereal clover rotation, herbage yields of clover increased by 25% with applied B, but seed yields, negligible without B, increased 21-fold. On two other acid soils, from pastures, there were also large responses to B in seed yield (1.5- and 5.1-fold respectively); liming increased the responses (8- and 55.2-fold). However, herbage production was less responsive to B (25% and 1.7-fold with liming); on the unlimed soils, application of B depressed yield (- 1 and -21%). This is attributed to there being enough B to sustain herbage growth, but inadequate for seed formation. These results show that herbage yield, conventionally employed in the past, is not a satisfactory index of B status for total performance in subterranean clover. The response to B in seed yield was associated with increases in: numbers of seed set (75% to 22.6-fold, depending on the particular combination of soil and liming); size of seed (10% to 1.2-fold); proportion of buried seed (20%-70%). It is suggested that these favour establishment and persistence of clover and that clover decline may well involve deficiency of B. It was shown that concentration of B in the plant does not necessarily relate predictably to yield of herbage and that reduction in seed yield may not be heralded by foliar symptoms, since seed requirement exceeds that of herbage.

© CSIRO 1987

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