Norris, D.M., Hatcher, H.R., Colvin, M.E., Coppola, G., Lashley, M.A., and Miranda, L.E. 2020. Assessing establishment and growth of agricultural plantings on reservoir mudflats. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 40:394-3405. doi.org/10.1002/nafm.10419
Winter drawdowns in flood control reservoirs create expansive mudflats that lack the vegetation typical of littoral zones, which reduces the amount of structure available for fish habitat. This study investigated the feasibility of establishing agricultural plantings as a management action to ameliorate mudflats by providing structural cover following reservoir refilling. We tested cool‐season annual grasses and clovers applied in several mixed and monoculture treatments that were sown on the mudflats of Enid Reservoir, Mississippi, during the winter drawdown in three consecutive years. Soil samples were taken for analysis of pH and macronutrients prior to planting. Plantings were monitored until the following spring to evaluate effectiveness of establishment through ground coverage, height, and stem density sampling. Plots were assigned a seeding treatment of either grasses (ryegrass Lolium spp. or triticale x Triticosecale sp.), clovers (balansa clover Trifolium michelianum or berseem clover Trifolium alexandrinum), or both (mixed plantings) or left as an unseeded control. Differences among plant treatments were assessed via repeated measures analysis of variance and differences among means evaluated with Tukey's honestly significant difference test. Soil productivity within the study area was poor all 3 years. Grasses germinated both when disked into the soil and when top sown, while clover only germinated when disked. Plots seeded with grasses performed better than control plots with respect to stem density, height, and ground coverage, while plots seeded with grass and clover mixtures performed better than control plots only with respect to height, and plots seeded with only clover did not perform significantly better than control plots. Results serve as an evaluation of the efficacy of agricultural plant establishment on the mudflats of a flood control reservoir, inform the direction of future research, and identify considerations regarding the application of agricultural plantings as a management tool to create fish habitat.