Research Article

Impact of seasonal nitrogen fertilisation on production characteristics of a mixed grass pasture in the Western Cape province of South Africa

Published in: South African Journal of Plant and Soil
Volume 34, issue 4, 2017, pages: 263–273
DOI: 10.1080/02571862.2017.1281448
Author(s): Carien BesterDepartment of Agronomy, South Africa, Johan LabuschagneResearch and Technology Development Services, Department of Agriculture Western Cape, South Africa, Petrus J PieterseDepartment of Agronomy, South Africa

Abstract

Pasture production in the Western Cape has traditionally been based on temperate species producing the majority of fodder during spring and autumn after which dry matter production decreases in winter. To investigate seasonal fertiliser nitrogen (N) management strategies to optimise seasonal dry matter production, a mixed grass pasture consisting of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) was established. The effect of fertiliser N (0, 20, 40, 60 and 80 kg N ha−1) and season of application (spring, summer, autumn and winter) were evaluated. Dry matter production was significantly (p = 0.05) the highest in spring (year 1) and in spring and summer (year 2) with application of 60–80 kg N ha−1. Botanical composition was mainly determined by season of application, whereas crude protein content was characterised by a strong interaction between season of N application and application rate. It is concluded that, excluding winter, seasonal application of N can be used as a management tool to increase dry matter production. It is recommended that 40 kg N ha−1 during autumn and spring and 60 kg N ha−1 during summer should be applied to grass pastures under irrigation in the Winelands subregion of the Western Cape.

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