The aim of this study was to determine the morphology of rhizome production, in two contrasting rhizomatous (R) and non-rhizomatous (NR) tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus
(Schreb.) Dumort) populations, and to assess whether rhizome production is associated with changed biomass allocation or plant growth pattern. Growth of R and NR populations was compared, under hard defoliation (H, 50 mm stubble), lax defoliation (L, 100 mm stubble), or without defoliation (U, uncut). Populations were cloned and grown in a glasshouse and defoliated every three weeks, with destructive harvests performed at 6, 12 and 18 weeks. R plants allocated more biomass to root and less to pseudostem than NR plants. Plant tiller numbers were greatly reduced by defoliation, and R and NR populations differed in leaf formation strategy. R plants had narrower leaves than NR, but their leaves were longer, because of greater leaf elongation duration. R plants were more plastic than NR plants in response to defoliation. Ultimately, biomass allocation to rhizomes did not differ between populations but R plants exhibited a subtle shift in distribution of internode length with a few longer internode segments typically located on secondary and tertiary tillers.
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