Combination of Lolium perenne L. and Festuca arundinacea Schreb. improve yields under low phosphorus availability

Ángel Velasco-Sánchez*, Laura M.E. Ferron, Doina T.C. Mani, Nadia Bennegadi-Laurent, Isabelle Trinsoutrot-Gattin, Jan Willem van Groenigen, Gabriel Y.K. Moinet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Phosphorus (P) is one of the main nutrients for all plants, including grasses. However, sources of P fertilizer are not renewable, are not evenly distributed and overfertilization can lead to serious environmental degradation. Smart combinations of grasses may be able to more efficiently take up P from soils through complementarity. In a two-year field mesocosm experiment, we compared the performance of Lolium perenne L. and Festuca arundinacea Schreb. in monocultures and in combination, as well as a mixture of both species with a tetraploid variety of Lolium perenne L and Phleum pratense L. Plants were grown in an unfertilized low P soil and in P fertilized soil for two growing seasons. We measured biomass production, root traits, nutrient uptake, microbial biomass and enzymatic activities. In the unfertilized plots the combination of Lolium perenne and Festuca arundinacea generated the highest cumulative yields (25,951 ± 4059 kg ha−1), relative total yield (> 1) and P nutrition index (0.79). We related this to the complementarity found in root traits and lower intraspecific competition of Festuca arundinacea and Lolium perenne diploid. Festuca arundinacea produced higher root biomass than Lolium perenne diploid at deeper soil layers (98 vs. 44 g m−2; p < 0.05). On the other hand, Lolium perenne diploid had significantly finer roots than Festuca arundinacea both at topsoil and bottom layers (0.19 vs. 0.22 mm and 0.19 vs. 0.23 mm at top and bottom layers respectively). The 4 species combination did not result in higher yields. Our results show that, in low P soils, combinations of grass species with contrasting root traits could lead to significantly higher yields than monocultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-215
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Issue number2
Early online date20 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Complementarity
  • Grassland
  • Microorganisms
  • Phosphorus
  • Root morphology


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