Limitation of grassland productivity by low temperature and seasonality of growth

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Wingler, Astrid
Hennessy, Deirdre
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Frontiers Media
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The productivity of temperate grassland is limited by the response of plants to low temperature, affecting winter persistence and seasonal growth rates. During the winter, the growth of perennial grasses is restricted by a combination of low temperature and the lack of available light, but during early spring low ground temperature is the main limiting factor. Once temperature increases, growth is stimulated, resulting in a peak in growth in spring before growth rates decline later in the season. Growth is not primarily limited by the ability to photosynthesize, but controlled by active regulatory processes that, e.g., enable plants to restrict growth and conserve resources for cold acclimation and winter survival. An insufficient ability to cold acclimate can affect winter persistence, thereby also reducing grassland productivity. While some mechanistic knowledge is available that explains how low temperature limits plant growth, the seasonal mechanisms that promote growth in response to increasing spring temperatures but restrict growth later in the season are only partially understood. Here, we assess the available knowledge of the physiological and signaling processes that determine growth, including hormonal effects, on cellular growth and on carbohydrate metabolism. Using data for grass growth in Ireland, we identify environmental factors that limit growth at different times of the year. Ideas are proposed how developmental factors, e.g., epigenetic changes, can lead to seasonality of the growth response to temperature. We also discuss perspectives for modeling grass growth and breeding to improve grassland productivity in a changing climate.
Brassinosteroids , Gibberellins , Grass breeding , Growth modelling , Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) , Phytohormones , Seasonality , Winter persistence
Wingler, A. and Hennessy, D. (2016) 'Limitation of grassland productivity by low temperature and seasonality of growth', Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 1130 (6pp). doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.01130