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Response of grass swards to fertilizer nitrogen under cutting or grazing

Response of grass swards to fertilizer nitrogen under cutting or grazing

Journal of Agricultural Science 92(3): 549-562

An experiment was conducted at 6 widely separated centers in England and Wales [UK] for 4 yr to compare the response of a perennial ryegrass (cv. S. 23) sward to fertilizer N at input rates of 200, 400 and 600 kg N/ha under cutting-only or [sheep] grazing-only management systems. Under both managements the yield response to N varied substantially and was always greater under cutting than grazing and the response was greater in the first than in subsequent years. Under cutting, significant responses were obtained with 200-400 kg N/ha at all sites and in all years but few sites responded significantly with 400-600 kg N/ha after the 1st yr. Under grazing there was on average of all sites (but not at every site) a significant response with 200-400 kg N/ha only in the 1st yr. In subsequent years no single site gave a worthwhile response in each year. Under grazing no site showed a significant response with 400-600 kg N/ha. At the lowest application of N, 200 kg N/ha, dry matter yields under grazing were greater than those under cutting on 8 of the possible 24 center-year occasions. At the 2 higher rates of applied N dry matter yields under cutting were consistently greater than those under grazing. With smaller responses to applied N on grazed than on cut swards maximum yields were achieved under grazing with an input of about 200 kg N/ha less than under cutting management. Cutting experiments apparently cannot be used to predict herbage yields and responses to fertilizer N under grazing conditions.

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