Defoliation frequency and the response by white clover to increasing phosphorus supply 1. Leaf dry matter yield and plant morphology responses Academic Article uri icon


  • A glasshouse experiment was carried out to determine how an increasing P supply influences the growth and survival of white clover plants subjected to a range of defoliation frequencies. Treatments involved the factorial combination of P application rate (0, 30, 90, and 180 mg/pot) to a P-deficient Krasnozem soil and defoliation frequency (1, 2, or 4 defoliations over 36 days). The survival of P-deficient plants was threatened by the most frequent defoliation; their leaf area declined owing to a reduction in leaf number and individual leaf size with each successive defoliation. Increasing the P supply to 180 mg/pot reversed this downward trend as the high P plants were able to maintain leaf area by increasing leaf size and number. Increasing the frequency from 1 to 4 defoliations over the 36 days also changed the form of the leaf dry matter response to added P, from an asymptotic to a linear response. The P requirement of white clover for maximum leaf yield therefore increased under frequent defoliation. This effect was also apparent for a range of morphological measurements including stolon elongation rate, leaf area, root mass, leaf number, and stolon number, where the magnitude of the P response was consistently greater for frequently defoliated plants. Exceptions included stolon mass, which responded more to P addition under infrequent defoliation.

publication date

  • 1997