Autumnal leaf senescence in Miscanthus × giganteus and leaf [N] differ by stand age

Nicholas N. Boersma, Frank G. Dohleman, Fernando E. Miguez, Emily A. Heaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Poor first winter survival in Miscanthus × giganteus has been anecdotally attributed to incomplete first autumn senescence, but these assessments never paired first-year with older M. × giganteus in side-by-side trials to separate the effect of weather from stand age. Here CO2 assimilation rate (A), photosystem II efficiency (PSII), and leaf N concentration ([N]) were used to directly compare senescence in first, second, and third-year stands of M. × giganteus. Three M. × giganteus fields were planted with eight plots, one field each in 2009, 2010, and 2011. To quantify autumnal leaf senescence of plants within each stand age, photosynthetic and leaf [N] measurements were made twice weekly from early September until a killing frost. Following chilling events (daily temperature averages below 10 °C), photosynthetic rates in first year plants rebounded to a greater degree than those in second-and third-year plants. By the end of the growing season, first-year M. × giganteus had A and PSII rates up to 4 times greater than third-year M. × giganteus, while leaf [N] was up to 2.4 times greater. The increased photosynthetic capability and leaf N status in first-year M. × giganteus suggests that the photosynthetic apparatus was not dismantled before a killing frost, thus potentially limiting nutrient translocation, and may explain why young M. × giganteus stands do not survive winter when older stands do. Because previous senescence research has primarily focused on annual or woody species, our results suggest that M. × giganteus may be an interesting herbaceous perennial system to investigate the interactive effects of plant ageing and nutrient status on senescence and may highlight management strategies that could potentially increase winter survival rates in first-year stands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4395-4401
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of experimental botany
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • CO assimilation
  • Chilling
  • Chronosequence
  • Miscanthus × giganteus
  • Nitrogen
  • Photosynthesis
  • Survival
  • Translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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