Defoliation management affects morphogenetic and structural characteristics of mixed pastures of brachiaria grass and forage peanut
A sound understanding of the effects of defoliation management in a grass–legume pasture is key in balancing populations between species. The aim of this study was to quantify the morphogenetic and structural characteristics and forage production of brachiaria grass and forage peanut mixtures under four defoliation strategies. A two-year experiment was carried out in Brazil (Cwa climate), where the following treatments were studied: rest period interruption by cattle grazing when the canopy attained light interception (LI) of 90%, 95% and 100%, and grazing performed every 42 d. Morphogenetic and structural characteristics of both species were measured. The forage and leaf accumulation rates were also quantified. The design was randomised blocks, with three replications, and repeated measurements over time. The 100% LI had greater stem and stolon elongation rates and a lower leaf appearance rate in both species and fewer tillers or stolons when compared with the other strategies. Conversely, rest periods of 90–95% LI promoted an increase of about 30% on forage and leaf accumulation rates of both grass and legume. Therefore, to enhance productivity and stability when these species are associated we recommend defoliating at 90–95% LI, which represents a canopy height ranging from 26 to 32 cm.
Keywords: Arachis pintoi, Brachiaria brizantha, palisade grass, warm-season forage legume