Influence of plant growth and root architecture of Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) on N recovery during winter

Malcolm, BJ
Moir, James
Cameron, Keith
Di, Hong
Edwards, GR
Journal Article
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::079902 Fertilisers and Agrochemicals (incl. Application) , ANZSRC::050304 Soil Chemistry (excl. Carbon Sequestration Science) , ANZSRC::3002 Agriculture, land and farm management , ANZSRC::3004 Crop and pasture production
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Nitrate (NO₃⁻) leaching is an environmental and health concern. In grazed pasture systems, NO₃⁻ leaching primarily occurs beneath animal urine patch areas due to high nitrogen (N) loading and the inability of pasture plants to capture all of this N. This study investigated the relative importance of plant growth and root architecture to recover soil N. Herbage N recovery, dry matter (DM) yield and root architecture, following injections of ¹⁵N-enriched urea at different soil depths (5, 25 and 45 cm), were measured for Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) grown in soil monolith lysimeters (18 cm diameter × 70 cm depth) under simulated South Island, New Zealand winter temperature and light levels. Total herbage N uptake and DM yield were on average 24 and 48% greater in L. multiflorum than F. arundinacea respectively. Root length density (cm cm⁻³ soil) in the 5- to 25-cm-depth horizon was similar between species. In the 25- to 45-cm-depth horizon, F. arundinacea roots were found at higher densities than L. multiflorum. In the 45- to 65-cm-depth horizon, root length density was fourfold to ninefold higher for F. arundinacea than L. multiflorum, but N uptake efficiency was greater in L. multiflorum (0·48 mg ¹⁵N m⁻¹ root) than F. arundinacea (0·09 mg ¹⁵N m⁻¹ root). The results suggest that deep F. arundinacea roots are relatively inactive during the winter period and confirm that plant growth is more important than root architecture (e.g. deep roots) to recover soil N and ultimately reduce nitrate leaching losses.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Creative Commons Rights
Access Rights