Effects of different diets on utilization of nitrogen from cattle slurry applied to grassland on a sandy soil in the Netherlands

J.W. Reijs, M.P.W. Sonneveld, P. Sorensen, R.L.M. Schils, J.C.J. Groot, E.A. Lantinga

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Dietary adjustments have been suggested as a means to reduce N losses from dairy systems. Differences in fertilizing value of dairy slurry as a result of dietary adjustments were evaluated in a 1-year grassland experiment and by long-term modelling. Slurry composition of non-lactating dairy cows was manipulated by feeding diets with extreme high and low levels of dietary protein and energy. C:Ntotal ratio of the produced slurries ranged from 5.1 to 11.4. To evaluate their short-term fertilizer N value, the experimental slurries (n = 8) and slurries from commercial farms with variable composition (n = 4), were slit-injected in two grassland fields on the same sandy soil series in the north of The Netherlands (53°10¿N, 6°04¿E), with differences in sward age and ground water level. The recently established grassland field (NEW) was characterized by lower soil OM, N and moisture contents, less herbs and more modern grass varieties compared to the older grassland field (OLD). Slurry was applied in spring (100 kg N ha¿1) and after the first cut (80 kg N ha¿1) while in total four cuts were harvested. Artificial fertilizer N treatments were included in the experiment to calculate the mineral fertilizer equivalent (MFE) of slurry N. The OLD field showed a higher total N uptake whereas DM yields were similar for the two fields. Average MFE of the slurries on the OLD field (47%) was lower than on the NEW field (56%), probably as a result of denitrification of slurry N during wet conditions in spring. Slurries from high crude protein diets showed a significantly higher MFE (P <0.05) compared to low crude protein diets. No significant differences in MFE were observed between slurries from high and low energy diets. On both fields, MFE appeared to be positively related to the ammonium content (P <0.001) and negatively to the C:Ntotal ratio of the slurry DM (P = 0.001). Simulation of the effect of long-term annual application of 180 kg N ha¿1 with highest and lowest C:Ntotal ratio suggested that both slurries would lead to an increase in annual soil N mineralization. Both soil N mineralization and SOC appeared to be substantially higher in equilibrium state for the slurry with the highest C:Ntotal ratio. It is concluded that in a situation with slit-injection, the reduced first-year N availability of slurry with a high C:Ntotal ratio as observed in the grassland experiment will only be compensated for by soil N mineralization on the very long term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-79
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • dairy farming systems
  • ammonia volatilization
  • pig slurry
  • manure applications
  • organic nitrogen
  • plant uptake
  • mineralization
  • carbon
  • term
  • management

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