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Contribution of Medicago sativa to the productivity and nutritive value of forage in semi‐arid grassland pastures

Klabi, R., Bell, T. H., Hamel, C., Iwaasa, A., Schellenberg, M. P., St‐Arnaud, M.
Grass and forage science 2018 v.73 no.1 pp. 159-173
Bouteloua gracilis, Bromus biebersteinii, Dalea purpurea, Medicago sativa, arid lands, correlation, forage grasses, forage production, fungi, indigenous species, legumes, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nutrient content, nutritive value, pastures, phosphorus pentoxide, prairies, soil, sowing, stable isotopes, summer
The inclusion of legumes in semi‐arid native grasslands may promote the productivity and nutritive value of forage. This study was designed to assess the effect of legumes (the introduced legume Medicago sativa or the native legume Dalea purpurea) and soil P fertility (addition of 0, 50, or 200 P₂O₅ kg/ha at seeding) on the dry matter and nutrient content of native grasses mixtures, compared with the commonly used introduced forage grass Bromus biebersteinii grown with M. sativa. Plant harvests were performed in September 2008, July 2009 and September 2009. Plants nutrient content, δ¹⁵N value and dry matter were analysed. Results show that the M. sativa enhanced the N and P concentrations of native grass mixtures early in the summer, as well as the N concentration in Bouteloua gracilis in late summer of the driest year, 2009. The higher AM fungal diversity promoted by M. sativa was positively correlated with the dry matter and nitrogen uptake of M. sativa and with the P concentration of native grasses, in early summer. Overall, this study shows that M. sativa promoted beneficial AM fungal taxa and improved forage production in the semi‐arid prairies.