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Ecotype Variability and Edaphic Characteristics for Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) Populations in Mississippi

  • Charles T. Bryson (a1), L. Jason Krutz (a1), Gary N. Ervin (a2), Krishna N. Reddy (a1) and John D. Byrd (a3)...

Cogongrass is a highly invasive, perennial grass that is found on all continents, except Antarctica. It continues to spread at an alarming rate in the southeastern United States. Cogongrass has been reported from a wide array of habitats; however, soils from areas where cogongrass grows have never been characterized. Live cogongrass plants, herbarium specimens, and soil samples were collected from 53 cogongrass populations from across the 10 physiographic regions and land use areas in Mississippi. Cogongrass leaf and inflorescence morphology varied among sites, and plants were found in soils varying widely in texture (ranging from 28 to 86% sand, 3 to 48% silt, and 6 to 43% clay), organic matter content (ranging from 0.9 to 5.0%), pH (ranging from 4.4 to 8.0), and nutrient status: 6 to 190 kg ha−1 (15 to 470 lb A−1) of phosphorus (P), 46 to 734 kg ha−1 of potassium (K), 150 to 7,620 kg ha−1 of calcium (Ca), 26 to 1,090 kg ha−1 of magnesium (Mg), 1 to 190 kg ha−1 of zinc (Zn), 145 to 800 kg ha−1 of estimated sulfur (S) based on organic matter, and 57 to 300 kg ha−1 of sodium (Na). These soil parameters were highly variable among cogongrass populations, even within physiographic regions or land use areas, and encompassed much of the soil physiochemical diversity within the state. Soil characteristics were significantly correlated with leaf length (Ca, K, Mg, P, Zn, and percentage of sand and silt), leaf width (Ca, P, Mg, and percentage of sand and silt), the leaf length-to-width ratio (K and P), inflorescence length (Na, P, and pH), inflorescence width (S, organic matter, and pH), and the inflorescence length-to-width ratio (S and organic matter). These data indicate that cogongrass is able to establish, emerge, grow, and reproduce on a wide array of soils in Mississippi. This ability provides cogongrass an advantage over other plant species that are more limited in the soil types that support their growth.

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