Growth and nutrients content of Atriplex canescens across a soil electric conductivity gradient
Atriplex canescens canopy cover, biomass production, and nutrient content were evaluated after four years of livestock grazing exclusion and mechanical shrub removal, except A. canescensin an arid rangeland with a slightly saline soil and with a long history of heavy livestock grazing in the southern Chihuahuan Desert, Mexico (24° N). Twenty 3 × 3 m paddocks were established in terrains with three levels of electric conductivity (EC): <1.4 dS/m (n=7), 1.4–1.6 dS/m (n=7) and >1.6 dS/m. Atriplex canescens canopy cover was higher (49.5%; p<0.01) on paddocks with soil EC >1.6 dS/m than paddocks with soil EC <1.4 and 1.4–1.6 dS/m (32.1 and 22.9%, respectively). Above-ground biomass did not differ between paddocks with soils with EC of <1.4 and 1.4–1.6 dS/m (1309 ± 535 and 1372 ± 180 kg DM/ha), but biomass increased 2.7 times (p<0.01) when soil EC was greater than 1.6 dS/m. The soil EC had no effect on the levels of crude protein (range 13.6 to 14.3%), neutral detergent fiber (range 56.5 to 57.7%) and ash (range 14.5 to 16.4%). In vitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD) of the foliage of A. canescens was not affected by of soil EC level (range 60.4 to 62.2%). It was concluded that in an arid rangeland with slight saline soil, the increase in salinity favors canopy cover and biomass production of A. canescens without altering nutrient content and IVDMD of this fodder shrub.
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