Studies of plant responses to defoliation are important to develop pasture management strategies. The objective of this study was to evaluate the population density of basal, aerial and reproductive tillers, tiller appearance and mortality rates, forage accumulation and sward structure in Marandu grass pastures under different grazing intensities. The experimental period was from January to June 2006, divided in three seasons: summer, autumn and winter. The pastures were continuously grazed using variable stocking rates. The grazing intensities corresponded to 15, 30 and 45 cm of sward height. The experiment was arranged in a complete randomized block design with three treatments and two replicates. The sward heights were measured twice a week. The response variables were: forage accumulation, forage mass and its morphological components; and population densities of basal (TPDb), aerial (TPDa) and reproductive (TPDr) tillers. The highest TPDb (P > 0.05) was recorded for the shortest sward pasture, and the highest TPDr (P<0.05) for the tallest sward pasture. Swards showed a tiller size/density compensation mechanism and, consequently, the forage accumulation was similar (P > 0.05) among the grazing intensities. Pasture with a sward height of 35 cm had 94% of sun light interception. The highest variations in forage accumulation and sward structure were more influenced by seasonal differences than by grazing intensities. Pastures of Marandu grass showed large flexibility in grazing management, which allowed it to be maintained at sward heights between 15 and 35 cm.
Brachiaria brizantha; light interception; morphological components; sward height; tiller population density