Changes in contribution of white clover to canopy structure in perennial ryegrass/white clover swards in response to N fertilizer

Laidlaw, A.S.; Withers, J.A.

Grass and Forage Science 53(3): 287-291


ISSN/ISBN: 0142-5242
DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2494.1998.00128.x
Accession: 003062104

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Twelve plots were laid down on an existing perennial ryegrass/white clover sward, one plot in each of six replicated blocks receiving 100 kg N ha-1 (100N) and one plot receiving no N (0N). Biomass, canopy development (stratified cuts and point quadrat records at 2-4-week intervals) and changes in stolon population density were recorded during one 8-week regrowth period (25 July-23 September) to investigate the likely causes of N effects on white clover in mixed swards. Over the period, N fertilizer resulted in an increase of 74% in perennial ryegrass biomass and a reduction of 24% in white clover biomass. There was also a reduction of 44% in stolon growing point density, mainly due to lower density of younger stolon branches. White clover's contribution to the upper three leaf area index (LAI) units (taken as an estimate of the proportion of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) intercepted) was, on average, 70% at 0N producing 74% of the sward biomass, compared with 46% contribution to interception and 37% contribution to biomass at 100N. While there was no evidence of overtopping, it is concluded that N fertilizer application increased the LAI of perennial ryegrass in the upper layers of the canopy thereby reducing the share of available PAR to white clover. This, coupled with a lower radiation use efficiency at high N and lower population density, results in white clover's reduced performance in mixed swards receiving N fertilizer.