Water Stress Tolerance of Six Rangeland Grasses in the Kenyan Semi-arid Rangelands
Kipchirchir, Koech O
Ngugi, Kinuthia R
Mwangi, Mureithi S
Njomo, Karuku G
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This study evaluated six grass species in terms of water stress responses by visual quality and living ground cover attributes and the recovery responses post water stress grown at 80, 50, 30% field capacity soil moisture contents. The grass species evaluated were Chloris roxburghiana, Eragrostis superba, Enteropogon macrostachyus, Cenchrus ciliaris, Chloris gayana, and Sorghum sudanense. The grasses demonstrated varied levels of water stress tolerance as evaluated by quality ratings based on colour (greenness) and uniformity of colour, leaf firing, living matter and wilting signs. All species declined in visual quality rating with prolonged water stress treatment with exception of Sorghum sudanense and Cenchrus ciliaris that had better quality ratings of six after 42 days water stress period. Sorghum sudanense, Chloris gayana and Cenchrus ciliaris had accelerated recovery in quality, attaining a visual rating of eight at 21 days of water stress period. The three soil moisture content treatments had higher quality ratings than rainfed conditions which represented water deficit. Sorghum sudanense and Chloris gayana had higher quality ratings and water use efficiency under rainfed compared to the other species. All the grasses showed higher living ground cover greater than 40% at recovery period of 28 days, when irrigation was resumed at the prescribed level, and attained living cover of over 60% by day 42. Sorghum sudanense, Chloris gayana and Cenchrus ciliaris were able to withstand water stress longer and had also a quick recovery among the six grasses. These three species are recommended for pasture establishment in semi-arid lands where water supply uncertainties exist, owing to their high tolerance to water stress.
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