Wild rice (Zizania palustris L.) litter accumulation may inhibit plant growth and production both by physically suppressing seedling emergence and by nitrogen immobilization in fresh litter. This latter mechanism could reduce nitrogen availability to plants early in the growing season at a period when more than half of the annual uptake occurs. To test the importance of these mechanisms, we planted wild rice in mesocosms. Half the tanks were planted with seeds sown below the litter and half were planted with seedlings grown to a height taller than litter thickness. One-third of the tanks were treated with fresh (nitrogen immobilizing) litter, one-third were treated with litter that had been incubated for 26 d and was mineralizing nitrogen, and one-third did not receive litter. These treatments resulted in a fully crossed factorial design, with nine replicates for each treatment combination, totaling 54 tanks. We measured plant growth, vegetative, root, and seed biomass, total plant N, and available N at 2.5 cm sediment depth. The presence of litter and its stage of decay caused plant, root, and seed biomass, and seed and total plant nitrogen content to increase. We found no physical inhibition of litter on the potential growth of plants started as seeds. Therefore, the timing of litter nitrogen immobilization or mineralization affects the potential growth of wild rice.
- Seed production
- Wild rice