Selection of suitable ecotypes withinDigitaria erianthafor reclamation and restoration of disturbed areas in southern Africa

Theunissen, J D
Journal of Arid Environments
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The gradual decline in the ecological condition of natural pastures as a result of over-utilization and the application of insufficient management decisions, coupled with the detrimental effects of long-term drought, has left extensive areas of high potential grazing land in southern Africa in urgent need of restoration. However, due to the limited number of grasses currently available for rehabilitating and restoring the vast number of different habitats encountered, an extensive research programme was initiated aimed at selecting indigenous grasses suitable for restoration of denuded areas in the arid and semi-arid grasslands of southern Africa. Forty-five specimens ofDigitaria erianthawere collected and included in an investigation using 23 morphological characters in a principal component analysis to assist in the delimitation of ecotypes. Results presented here indicate are representatives of this sample of the species.Digitaria erianthacan be delimited into five ecotypes, each associated with a particular rainfall region and/or habitat condition. The second part of the paper deals with the mode of reproduction employed by eachD. erianthaecotype identified, where the degree of sexuality and reproductive potency of each ecotype was determined. Ecotypes DEBTUF, DEBSENW and DEKTUF displayed the best seed germination and the worst vegetative reproductive potencies. Ecotypes DEBSTOL and DEKSTOL proved to be better adapted for vegetative reproduction by stolon scions. The presence of ecotype variation, different reproductive modes and a wide geographic distribution imply that an extensive and diverse genetic adaptability for survival under fierce environmental conditions exists withinD. eriantha. Acquisition of hardier, more viable ecotypes may prove invaluable for the restoration and reinforcement of degraded land, especially areas subjected to extreme environmental stresses.
Name of Journal: 
Journal of Arid Environments
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Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.