The effect of four different pasture species compositions on nitrate leaching losses under high N loading
Nitrate (NO₃⁻) leaching can cause elevated concentrations of NO₃⁻-N in water, which can have adverse impacts on water quality and human health. In grazed pasture systems, most of the NO₃⁻-N leaching occurs beneath animal urine-N deposits. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of four different pasture species compositions [perennial ryegrass/white clover (P. ryegrass WC), tall fescue/white clover (T. fescue WC), Italian ryegrass/white clover (It. ryegrass WC) and perennial ryegrass/Italian ryegrass/white clover/red clover/chicory/plantain (Diverse)] on NO₃⁻-N leaching losses from animal urine patches, and to examine the relative importance of root system architecture and seasonal activity to reduce NO₃⁻-N leaching losses. The results show that NO₃⁻-N leaching losses were 24–54% lower beneath It. ryegrass WC than other pasture species. Total dry matter (DM) yield in the season following establishment was 11–58% greater in the It. ryegrass WC pasture, while average winter daily N uptake rate of It. ryegrass WC over the two seasons was on average 58% greater than P. ryegrass WC and T. fescue WC. In the second season, the P. ryegrass WC and T. fescue WC pastures had up to 140 and 82% more roots between 0 and 40 cm depth, respectively, than the other pasture species compositions. These results suggest that in grazed pasture systems, high plant winter activity (plant growth/root metabolic activity) is more important than specific root architecture (e.g. deep roots) to reduce NO₃⁻-N leaching losses.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordspasture species; nitrate leaching; root architecture; winter activity; N uptake; Agronomy & Agriculture
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© 2014 British Society of Soil Science.