MORFOLOGIC CHARACTERIZATION ON MARANDU GRASS PASTURES SUBMITTED TO DEFOLIATION FREQUENCIES AND FERTILIZATION LEVELS

Abstract Tillers are the basic units of growth in forage grasses and tillering is responsible for the adaptation and reestablishment of grass after defoliation. Therefore, it is important to understand the morphological changes of tillers due to defoliation environment and fertilization, which are two important pasture management strategies. In this study, we aimed to characterize the morfologic response of marandu grass tillers before nitrogen fertilization and frequency of defoliation for a better understanding of the phenotypic plasticity of this plant. This study was carried out in two experimental years. The treatments in the first year consisted of different cutting intervals (7, 14, 28, 56, and 112 days). In the second year, besides the same cutting intervals, two fertilization conditions were studied: a low level (21.5 kg.ha-1 P and 75 kg.ha-1 N) and a high level (43 kg.ha-1 P and 300 kg.ha-1 N). A randomized block design was adopted and in experiment two a factorial scheme with four repetitions was used. In both experiments the responses to stem length, leaf blade length, space between leaf blade and leaf area, and weight of tiller increased with cutting intervals. In experiment two, high doses of fertilization provided larger number of vegetative tillers, space between leaf blades, tiller weight, longer leaves and stems, and higher population densities of reproductive tillers with longer cutting intervals. In conclusion, the defoliation and the nitrogen and phosphorous fertilization produced morphologic modifications in marandu grass tillers suggesting the phenotypic plasticity of this grass.