Plant community and white-tailed deer nutritional carrying capacity response to intercropping switchgrass in loblolly pine plantations
Greene, Ethan Jacob.
CommitteeMiller, Darren A.
Rush, Scott A.
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a cellulosic feedstock for alternative energy production that could grow well between planted pines (Pinus spp.). Southeastern planted pine occupies 15.8 million hectares and thus, switchgrass intercropping could affect biodiversity if broadly implemented. Therefore, I evaluated effects of intercropping switchgrass in loblolly pine (P. taeda L.) plantations on plant community diversity, plant biomass production, and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmerman) nutritional carrying capacity. In a randomized complete block design, I assigned three treatments (switchgrass intercropped, switchgrass monoculture, and a “control” of traditional pine management) to 4 replicates of 10-ha experimental units in Kemper County, Mississippi during 2014-2015. I detected 246 different plant species. Switchgrass intercropping reduced plant species richness and diversity but maintained evenness. I observed reduced forb and high-use deer forage biomass but only in intercropped alleys (interbeds). Soil micronutrient interactions affected forage protein of deer plants. White-tailed deer nutritional carrying capacity remained unaffected.