Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 September 2008
The literature suggests that the establishment of seed yield potential in cool-season perennial grasses is based on developmental processes that take place before floral induction. The relationship between vegetative plant development to flowering and seed yield can be influenced by numerous factors, such as genotype, stand age, post-harvest regrowth environment, pests, management practices and juvenility. The objectives of our investigations and survey of literature were to identify characteristics of vegetative plant development present before floral induction (autumn regrowth period) that were related to flowering (yield potential) and seed yield (utilization of seed yield potential). The number of fertile tillers present at anthesis is a function of the number and developmental state (or biological age) of vegetative tillers present prior to floral induction. The number and size of vegetative tillers before induction was correlated with flowering and seed yield in young stands of orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) (r = 0.93 and 0.95 for first-year stands of orchardgrass and tall fescue, respectively), but older stands did not exhibit this relationship. The basal diameter of vegetative tillers in autumn was related to flowering and seed yield in young stands of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) and creeping red fescue (F. rubra L) As stands aged, basal diameter was not a primary indicator of subsequent flowering and seed yield. Tiller height at the end of the regrowth period was consistently related to flowering and seed yield in Kentucky bluegrass(r = −0.81, P < 0.01) and creeping red fescue (r = −0.87, P < 0.01), regardless of stand age. Increasing the rhizome:root ratio caused reduction of flowering in creeping red fescue. Vegetative characteristics were not related to flowering and seed production in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and dryland bentgrass (Agrostis castellana Boiss. and Reut.). Green leaf number was a poor indicator of flowering and seed yield potential in all species tested. Ethylene production during autumn vegetative development has been implicated as a potential cause of reduced flowering in creeping red fescue. As much as 92% of the seed yield potential in several cool-season perennial grasses is set before the onset of conditions favouring vernalization of the crop. An increased understanding of developmental gateways in the formation of flowering and seed yield potential may be key to enhancing the economic and environmental sustainability of seed production enterprises.