Growth characteristics of grass and legume cultivars and their potential for land reclamation

  • Published source details Elias C.O. & Chadwick M.J. (1979) Growth characteristics of grass and legume cultivars and their potential for land reclamation. Journal of Applied Ecology, 16, 537-544.


Screening of commercially available grass and legume species and cultivars to assess their potential for use in reclamation schemes may enhance revegetation attempts. For example, some cultivars have been selected for characteristics (e.g. salt tolerance, zinc tolerance, low maintenance) that may be useful in revegetation of waste materials. In a laboratory experiment, a study assessed growth characteristics of 40 grass and legume cultivars and their potential for use in reclamation schemes.

The study was undertaking by the Derelict Land Reclamation Unit in growing rooms at the University of York, North Yorkshire, England. Forty cultivars of grasses and herbaceous legumes were grown (Table 1, attached) and included cultivars bred for both agricultural and amenity use.

The plants were grown in cabinets under a 20/15 ºC day/night temperature regime with a 16 h photoperiod. Relative humidity was 60-70%. Plants were grown singly in 500 cm³ of sand in polythene containers supplied with Long Ashton nutrient solution (N 125 mg /1, P 42 mg/1, K 78 mg/1).

Seedlings in containers were arranged in a randomized block design, with two blocks in each of three growth rooms, giving six replicates. Over the 5-week long experimental period, grass and legume samples were taken at weeks 2, 3, 4 and 5. Six plants (one from each replicate) per cultivar were taken at each harvest. These were subdivided into roots, stems and leaves, dried and weighed.

Differences in relative growth rates between cultivars of anyone species were almost all very small. There were significant differences between the common bent-grass Agrostis tenuis cultivars Highland and Boral; Highland having the highest relative growth rate and shoot-weight ratio. Dry weight data was more variable. Unsurprisingly between species differences were far greater both in terms of growth rates and biomass ratios.

It was apparent that some legumes successfully used in waste land reclamation e.g. crown vetch Coronilla varia and bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus, had relatively high root-weight ratios indicating a substantial root system.

The productive grasses commonly grown in agriculture (e.g. perennial rye-grass Lolium perenne, cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata and smooth meadow-grass Poa pratense) showed a higher growth rate than those less commonly used for this purpose (e.g. fine-leaved fescue Festuca tenuifolia).

Conclusions: There were few differences in growth characteristics between cultivars within the species studied. Grass and legume species with a high relative growth rates are considered only likely to grow successfully on substrates which are nutrient deficient where fertilizer has been added. Species with a low growth rate are likely to be more successful on nutrient-deficient substrates such as colliery spoil.

Note: The compilation and addition of this summary was funded by the Journal of Applied Ecology (BES). If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at:



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