3 years ago

Testing the cultivar vigor hypothesis: comparisons of the competitive ability of wild and cultivated populations of Pascopyrum smithii along a restoration chronosequence

Restoration practitioners often rely on seeds of widely available cultivars representing native species but nonlocal germplasm. Cultivation improves the supply of plant materials and minimizes revegetation costs, but can also favor agronomic traits, and resulting vigor may affect the competitive ability and long‐term persistence of cultivated genotypes at restoration sites. We compared cultivated, restored, and wild populations of Pascopyrum smithii (western wheatgrass) in a greenhouse study to test the extent to which cultivars outcompete local plants in biomass production, and to determine if morphological differences (including height and number of leaves) among cultivated and wild populations persist at restoration sites over time. We found evidence of vigor and greater competitive ability of cultivars in seed mass, growth rate, plant height, and biomass and this advantage occurred when plants were grown alone or in competition with other seed sources. Cultivar vigor persisted at restoration sites over 30 years, but restored populations more closely resembled wild, local populations when cultivars were planted in closer proximity to nearby undisturbed sites. This study supports the cultivar vigor hypothesis and provides evidence for the long‐term persistence of cultivated traits in the environment.
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