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Effect of four plant species on soil 15N-access and herbage yield in temporary agricultural grasslands

Pirhofer-Walzl, Karin; Eriksen, Jørgen; Rasmussen , Jim; Høgh-Jensen, Henning; Søegaard, Karin and Rasmussen, Jesper (2013) Effect of four plant species on soil 15N-access and herbage yield in temporary agricultural grasslands. Plant Soil, 1, pp. 1-10.

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Document available online at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11104-013-1694-0#page-1


Positive plant diversity-productivity relationships have been reported for experimental semi-natural grasslands (Cardinale et al. 2006; Hector et al. 1999; Tilman et al. 1996) as well as temporary agricultural grasslands (Frankow-Lindberg et al. 2009; Kirwan et al. 2007; Nyfeler et al. 2009; Picasso et al. 2008). Generally, these relationships are explained, on the one hand, by niche differentiation and facilitation (Hector et al. 2002; Tilman et al. 2002) and, on the other hand, by greater probability of including a highly productive plant species in high diversity plots (Huston 1997). Both explanations accept that diversity is significant because species differ in characteristics, such as root architecture, nutrient acquisition and water use efficiency, to name a few, resulting in composition and diversity being important for improved productivity and resource use (Naeem et al. 1994; Tilman et al. 2002). Plant diversity is generally low in temporary agricultural grasslands grown for ruminant fodder production. Grass in pure stands is common, but requires high nitrogen (N) inputs. In terms of N input, two-species grass-legume mixtures are more sustainable than grass in pure stands and consequently dominate low N input grasslands (Crews and Peoples 2004; Nyfeler et al. 2009; Nyfeler et al. 2011).
In temperate grasslands, N is often the limiting factor for productivity (Whitehead 1995). Plant available soil N is generally concentrated in the upper soil layers, but may leach to deeper layers, especially in grasslands that include legumes (Scherer-Lorenzen et al. 2003) and under conditions with surplus precipitation (Thorup-Kristensen 2006). To improve soil N use efficiency in temporary grasslands, we propose the addition of deep-rooting plant species to a mixture of perennial ryegrass and white clover, which are the most widespread forage plant species in temporary grasslands in a temperate climate (Moore 2003). Perennial ryegrass and white clover possess relatively shallow root systems (Kutschera and Lichtenegger 1982; Kutschera and Lichtenegger 1992) with effective rooting depths of <0.7 m on a silt loamy site (Pollock and Mead 2008). Grassland species, such as lucerne and chicory, grow their tap-roots into deep soil layers and exploit soil nutrients and water in soil layers that the commonly grown shallow-rooting grassland species cannot reach (Braun et al. 2010; Skinner 2008). Chicory grown as a catch crop after barley reduced the inorganic soil N down to 2.5 m depth during the growing season, while perennial ryegrass affected the inorganic soil N only down to 1 m depth (Thorup-Kristensen 2006). Further, on a Wakanui silt loam in New Zealand chicory extracted water down to 1.9 m and lucerne down to 2.3 m soil depth, which resulted in greater herbage yields compared with a perennial ryegrass-white clover mixture, especially for dryland plots (Brown et al. 2005).
There is little information on both the ability of deep- and shallow-rooting grassland species to access soil N from different vertical soil layers and the relation of soil N-access and herbage yield in temporary agricultural grasslands. Therefore, the objective of the present work was to test the hypotheses 1) that a mixture comprising both shallow- and deep-rooting plant species has greater herbage yields than a shallow-rooting binary mixture and pure stands, 2) that deep-rooting plant species (chicory and lucerne) are superior in accessing soil N from 1.2 m soil depth compared with shallow-rooting plant species, 3) that shallow-rooting plant species (perennial ryegrass and white clover) are superior in accessing soil N from 0.4 m soil depth compared with deep-rooting plant species, 4) that a mixture of deep- and shallow-rooting plant species has greater access to soil N from three soil layers compared with a shallow-rooting two-species mixture and that 5) the leguminous grassland plants, lucerne and white clover, have a strong impact on grassland N acquisition, because of their ability to derive N from the soil and the atmosphere.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Agrovoc keywords:
Subjects: Crop husbandry
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF III (2005-2010) > ORGGRASS - Grass-clover in organic dairy farming
Deposited By: Jensen, Dr Henning Høgh
ID Code:23296
Deposited On:23 Sep 2013 13:42
Last Modified:23 Sep 2013 13:42
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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