The University of Arizona

Nitrogen fertilization, botanical composition and biomass production on mixed-grass rangeland.

M.J. Samuel, R.H. Hart

Abstract


Many studies have reported nitrogen (N) fertilization of rangeland, but few have reported changes in botanical composition, which may be as important as changes in forage production, or were continued for as long as 14 years. We determined frequency of occurrence of over 90 plant species in 1976-1988 under rates of 0, 22, or 34 kg N ha-1 applied in spring or fall to mixed-grass rangeland in southeast Wyoming; frequency of 23 species will be reported. We also determined total biomass production and production of major species and species groups in 1982-1988. Blue grama Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Griffiths] frequency decreased during years 5 through 7 because of the interaction of N and drought. The effects of long-term application of N decreased blue grama in year 12 and beyond. Nitrogen fertilization increased frequency of western wheatgrass [Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love] in all years except the driest year of the study. Needleleaf sedge [Carex eleocharis Bailey] decreased because grazing had been removed from the study area; this occurred sooner and to a greater extent on fertilized than on unfertilized plots. Fourteen other perennial species were quite variable in response to the 3 rates and the 2 seasons of application. Frequency of 6 annual species fluctuated greatly among years and treatments. Nitrogen fertilization did not increase average forage production enough to be profitable for cattle production.

Keywords


long term experiments;grassland improvement;cost benefit analysis;rain;nitrogen fertilizers;stocking rate;forbs;Pascopyrum smithii;Bouteloua gracilis;Wyoming;application rate;biomass;botanical composition;grasses

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