The University of Arizona

N and P fertilization on rangeland production in Midwest Argentina.

J.C. Guevara, C.R. Stasi, O.R. Estevez, H.N. L


Low soil nutrient status may be the major limiting factor to forage production in rangelands of the Mendoza plains 4 years out of 10. We studied vegetation responses to annual applications of N and P on such rangelands. Fertilizer application rates were 0 or 25 N and 0 or 11 P (kg ha-1) in a factorial arrangement. Dry matter production of grasses and palatable shrubs and crude protein (CP) content of grasses were determined annually from 1996 to 1998. Experimental plots received rains of 189, 278, and 346 mm during the 3 study years compared to mean growing season rainfall of 258 mm. Forage production was increased by N+P fertilization only in 1998 (1,390 vs 980 kg ha-1, P < 0.05), producing 16.5 kg forage kg-1 N applied. Crude protein concentration was increased by N fertilization in 1997 (6.3 vs 5.3%, P < 0.05) and N+P application increased in 1998 (6.8 vs 5.7%, P < 0.05). Nitrogen and P application increased seasonal rain-use efficiency when the rainfall exceeded 300 mm. In 1998, the increase of grass production per kg N applied with and without P was 18.4 and 12.4 kg, respectively. The break-even point between rain and nutrients as the main primary production determinant on sandy soils in the central Mendoza plains is around 400 mm year-1 instead of 300 mm in other arid lands of the world. The value of meat increment derived from the N fertilization, with and without P application (US$ 0.07 ha-1 year-1 kg-1 N) was lower than the fertilizer cost (US$ 0.87 kg-1 N). A 5-fold increase in forage yields would be required to offset the cost of fertilizer. Fertilizer application did not increase forage production enough to be profitable for cattle production at present fertilizer and meat prices.



phosphorus fertilizers;economic analysis;production costs;soil fertility;rain;nitrogen fertilizers;use efficiency;biomass production;application rate;Argentina;rangelands;forage

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