Original Articles

Plant and sward response to patch grazing in the Highland Sourveld

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 13, issue 3, 1996 , pages: 94–99
DOI: 10.1080/10220119.1996.9647905
Author(s): B.U. LütgeDepartment of Grassland Science, Republic of South Africa, M.B. HardyKwaZulu‐Natal Department of Agriculture, Republic of South Africa, G.P. HatchDepartment of Grassland Science, Republic of South Africa

Abstract

Selective grazing by livestock inevitably results in patch grazing. This study was initiated to determine the effects of patch grazing on (1) the vigour of a single grass species, Themeda triandra, and of the sward, and (2) sward species composition. The generally held idea that a full season's rest followed by an early spring burn would prevent preferential grazing of patch grazed areas which had developed in the seasons before the rest was also tested. The vigour of 71 triandra was estimated from etiolated growth of marked tufts while sward vigour was indexed by above‐ground herbage production (AGHP). Etiolated growth of T. triandra and AGHP of the sward within patches were negatively affected by three seasons of grazing, but a full season's rest appeared sufficient to restore both the etiolated growth of T. triandra and the AGHP of the sward to a level similar to that in the non‐patches. A full season's rest followed by spring burning did not, however, prevent preferential grazing of grazed patches which had developed in the seasons prior to the rest. Species composition within patches (characterised by Increaser II species) differed significantly from the species composition of non‐patches (characterised by Increaser I species). Patch grazing may therefore initiate the rangeland degradation process in Highland Sourveld and patch grazing may be the focus from which rangeland degradation proceeds.

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