Method and timing of grassland renovation affects herbage yield, nitrate leaching, and nitrous oxide emission in intensively managed grasslands

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Abstract

Managed grasslands are occasionally ploughed up and reseeded in order to maintain or increase the sward productivity. It has been reported that this renovation of grassland is associated with a flush of soil organic nitrogen (N) mineralization and with a temporary increase in soil mineral N contents. Here, we report on the effects of method and time of grassland renovation on herbage yield, nitrate (NO3 -) leaching and nitrous oxide (N2O) emission. Field experiments were carried out at three sites (two sandy soils and a clay soil) in the Netherlands for three years. Renovation of grassland increased the percentage of Perennial ryegrass from 48–70% up to more than 90%. However, averaged over three years, dry matter yields were higher for the reference (not reseeded) swards (on average 13.6 Mg ha-1 for the highest N application rate) than for the renovated grasslands (12.2–13.1 Mg ha-1 dry matter). Grassland renovation in April did not increase N leaching in comparison to the reference. However, renovation in September increased the risk of leaching, because mineral N contents in the 0–90 cm were in November on average 46–77 kg N ha-1 higher than in the reference. Contents of dissolved organic N (DON) in the soil were not affected by renovation. Renovation increased N2O emissions by a factor of 1.8–3.0 relative to the reference grassland. Emissions of N2O were on average higher after renovation in April (8.2 kg N2O-N ha-1) than in September (5.8 kg N2O-N ha-1). Renovation without ploughing (i.e. only chemically destruction of the sward) resulted in a lower percentage of perennial ryegrass (60–84%) than with ploughing (>90%). Moreover, N2O emissions were higher after renovation without ploughing than with ploughing. Clearly, farmers need better recommendations and tools for determining when grassland renovation has beneficial agronomic effects. Losses of N via leaching and N2O emission after renovation can probably not be avoided, but renovation in spring in stead of autumn in combination with ploughing and proper timing of fertilizer application can minimize N losses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-412
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Volume86
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • organic nitrogen
  • soil
  • mineralization
  • netherlands
  • clover
  • cultivation
  • fertilizer
  • pasture
  • swards

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