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Determining the fertiliser phosphorus requirements of intensively grazed dairy pastures in south-western Australia with or without adequate nitrogen fertiliser


Determining the fertiliser phosphorus requirements of intensively grazed dairy pastures in south-western Australia with or without adequate nitrogen fertiliser



Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47(7): 801-814



Fertiliser phosphorus (P) and, more recently, fertiliser nitrogen (N) are regularly applied to intensively grazed dairy pastures in south-western Australia. However, it is not known if applications of fertiliser N change pasture dry matter (DM) yield responses to applied fertiliser P. In three Western Australian field experiments (2000-04), six levels of P were applied to large plots with or without fertiliser N. The pastures were rotationally grazed. Grazing started when ryegrass plants had 2-3 leaves per tiller. Plots were grazed in common with the lactating dairy herd in the 6-h period between the morning and afternoon milking. A pasture DM yield response to applied N occurred for all harvests in all three experiments. For the two experiments on P deficient soil, pasture DM yield responses also occurred to applications of P. For some harvests when no fertiliser N was applied, probably because mineral N in soil was so small, there was a small, non-significant pasture DM response to applied P and the P x N interaction was highly significant (P < 0.001). However, for most harvests there was a significant pasture DM response to both applied N and P, and the P x N interaction was significant (P < 0.05-0.01), with the response to applied P, and maximum yield plateaus to applied P, being smaller when no N was applied. Despite this, for the significant pasture DM responses to applied P, the level of applied P required to produce 90% of the maximum pasture DM yield was mostly similar with or without applied N. Evidently for P deficient soils in the region, pasture DM responses to applied fertiliser P are smaller or may fail to occur unless fertiliser N is also applied. In a third experiment, where the soil had a high P status (i.e. more typical of most dairy farms in the region), there was only a pasture DM yield response to applied fertiliser N. We recommend that fertiliser P should not be applied to dairy pastures in the region until soil testing indicates likely deficiency, to avoid developing unproductive, unprofitable large surpluses of P in soil, and reduce the likelihood of P leaching and polluting water in the many drains and waterways in the region. For all three experiments, critical Colwell soil test P (a soil test value that was related to 90% of the maximum pasture DM yield), was similar for the two fertiliser N treatments.

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