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Accounting for residual effects of previously applied nitrogen fertilizer on intensively managed grasslands

Vellinga, T.V., André, G., Schils, R.L.M., Kraak, T., Oenema, O.
Grass and forage science 2010 v.65 no.1 pp. 58-75
fertilizer rates, field experimentation, forage, grasslands, growing season, mineral soils, nitrogen fertilizers, nutrient use efficiency, peat, peat soils, residual effects, statistical models
Only 0·20-0·70 of the fertilizer-nitrogen (N) applied to grassland is taken up in herbage in the harvest directly following application. Residual effects at subsequent harvests can be large but are poorly quantified, and rarely taken into account in current management practices. An increased understanding of N-use efficiency per harvest can improve operational management. This study systematically assessed the residual effects of previously applied N fertilizer on N uptake, dry matter (DM) yield and soil mineral-N (SMN) during the whole of the growing season. It is based on field experiments conducted on peat and mineral soils in 1991-1994. Statistical models were derived for SMN, N uptake and DM yield as a function of previously and freshly applied N fertilizer. There were clear residual effects of previously applied N in later cuts. They were relatively greater at higher levels of N fertilizer. On peat soils, 0·15-0·25 of the N applied was recovered as SMN. On mineral soils the proportion was maximally 0·08. There was a clear relationship between SMN and N uptake in the subsequent cut on mineral soils but not on peat soils. The value of SMN as a tool to adjust fertilizer-N application rates was hence found to be limited. There were clear relationships between the amount of previously applied N and the N uptake in subsequent cuts, on both soil types and over the whole of the growing season. It was concluded that the total amount of previously applied N is a useful indicator for adjusting N-fertilizer application rates.