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Net effects of nitrogen fertilization on the nutritive value and digestibility of oat forages

W.K. Coblentz, M.S. Akins, J.S. Cavadini, W.E. Jokela
Journal of dairy science 2017 v.100 no.3 pp. 1739-1750
carbohydrates, crude protein, cultivars, dairy manure, detergents, digestibility, energy, energy density, farms, fertilizer rates, forage yield, grasses, neutral detergent fiber, nitrogen, nutrients, nutritive value, oats, planting, rumen fluids, soil amendments, urea, urea fertilizers, Wisconsin
Applications of soil amendments containing N are part of routine forage-management strategies for grasses, with a primary goal of increasing forage yield. However, the effects of N fertilization on forage nutritive value, estimates of energy density, and in vitro dry matter or neutral detergent fiber disappearance sometimes have been erratic or inconsistent. Our objectives were to evaluate the effects of N fertilization on the nutritive value of a single cultivar (ForagePlus, Kratz Farms, Slinger, WI) of fall-grown oat fertilized at planting with 20, 40, 60, 80, or 100 kg of N/ha of urea or 2 rates of dairy slurry (42,300 or 84,600 L/ha). Nitrogen fertilization exhibited consistent effects on fiber components; forages fertilized with urea or dairy slurry had greater concentrations of fiber components compared with those harvested from unfertilized check plots (0 kg of N/ha), and fiber concentrations increased linearly with urea fertilization rate. In contrast, concentrations of water-soluble carbohydrates were greatest for unfertilized forages (21.2%), but declined linearly with urea fertilization, exhibiting a minimum of 13.5% at the 80 kg of N/ha urea application rate. Similarly, nonfiber carbohydrates also declined linearly, from 34.8% for unfertilized check plots to a minimum of 24.6% at the 80 kg of N/ha urea application rate. Fertilization with urea resulted in consistent linear increases in crude protein (CP), neutral detergent soluble CP, neutral detergent insoluble CP, and acid detergent insoluble CP; however, the partitioning of CP on the basis of association with specific fiber fractions could not be related to N fertilization when concentrations were expressed on a percentage of CP basis. The summative calculation of energy, expressed as total digestible nutrients was closely related to N fertilization rate during both the 2013 (y = −0.038x + 72.2; R2 = 0.961) and 2014 (y = −0.040x + 69.2; R2 = 0.771) production years. Following 30- or 48-h incubations in buffered rumen fluid, in vitro dry matter disappearance was greater for unfertilized forages compared with those fertilized with either urea or dairy slurry, and disappearance declined linearly with urea fertilization rate; however, these responses were not detected for neutral detergent fiber disappearance. Overall, the forage nutritive value of fall-grown oat declined mildly in response to N fertilization, but these responses were not nearly strong enough to offset the advantages obtained by improved forage yields.