Managing grasslands for forage and ground-nesting bird habitat requires appropriate defoliation strategies. Subsequent early-summer species composition in mixed stands of native warm-season grasses (Indiangrass (IG, Sorghastrum nutans
), big bluestem (BB, Andropogon gerardii
little bluestem (LB, Schizachyrium scoparium
)) responding to harvest intervals (treatments, 30, 40, 60, 90 or 120 d) and durations (years in production) was assessed. Over three years, phased May harvestings were initiated on sets of randomized plots, ≥90 cm apart, in five replications (blocks) to produce one-, two- and three-year-old stands. Two weeks after harvest, the frequencies of occurrence of plant species, litter and bare ground, diagonally across each plot (line intercept), were compared. Harvest intervals did not influence proportions of dominant plant species, occurrence of major plant types or litter, but increased that of bare ground patches. Harvest duration increased the occurrence of herbaceous forbs and bare ground patches, decreased that of tall-growing forbs and litter, but without affecting that of perennial grasses, following a year with more September rainfall. Data suggest that one- or two-year full-season forage harvesting may not compromise subsequent breeding habitat for bobwhites and other ground-nesting birds in similar stands. It may take longer than a year’s rest for similar stands to recover from such changes in species composition.
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