The University of Arizona

Grazing impacts on soil nitrogen and phosphorus under Parkland pastures.

V.S. Baron, A.C. Dick, E. Mapfumo, S.S. Malhi, M.A. Naeth, D.S. Chanasyk


Because intensive grazing is new to the humid western Canadian parkland (prairies), there is little information available about its effects on soil N and P status. This study addressed the question of grazing intensity and pasture species effects on soil macronutrient status in a Typic Haplustoll at Lacombe, Alberta. Paddocks of smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.), meadow bromegrass (Bromus riparius Rhem.), and winter triticale (X Triticosecale Wittmack.), replicated 4 times, were subjected to 3 grazing intensities (heavy, medium, and light as defined by frequency and severity of defoliation) using yearling beef heifers. Nitrogen (N), P and K fertilisers were broadcast annually at 100, 22 and 42 kg ha(-1) during production years. The experiment was maintained on the same paddocks for 4 years. In the establishment year and in the third and fourth production years, soil samples were taken randomly from each paddock to a depth of 60 cm. Concentrations of nitrate-N (NO3-N), ammonium-N (NH4-N), mineral-N (the sum of NO3-N and NH4-N), total Kjeldahl-N, and extractable-P were determined in the 0-15, 15-30, 30-60, and 0-60-cm depths. Nitrate-N concentration was (1.7 to 2.4 times) greater for heavy than light grazed treatments for each soil depth increment and the amount of NO3-N in the 0-60 cm depth was 2.2 times greater than light paddocks. More NO3-N was measured under perennials than triticale (22.2 vs 13.6 mg kg(-1), respectively) at the 30-60-cm depth. Ammonium-N amount (0-60 cm) was greater in meadow bromegrass (30 kg ha(-1)) than in triticale (25 kg ha(-1)), but not smooth bromegrass paddocks for the 0-15-cm depth. Extractable-P concentration was greater in the 0-15-cm depth of heavy (154 mg kg(-1)) than in medium (138 mg kg(-1)) or light-grazed (127 mg kg(-1)) paddocks and was higher under meadow bromegrass than under triticale. Given the large amounts of NO3-N in the heavy paddocks, there is potential for loss through both leaching and denitrification. Differences among treatments for NH4-N, and P concentrations are not of particular concern environmentally, but are important from a fertility management point of view.



Bromus inermis;NPK fertilizers;Bromus riparius;triticale;nitrate nitrogen;sown grasslands;soil fertility;Alberta;stocking rate;use efficiency;species differences;phosphorus;grazing intensity;soil chemistry;nitrogen content;application rate;prairies;range management;beef cattle

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