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Effects of Forage Management on Pasture Productivity and Phosphorus Content

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Society for Range Management
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Abstract

Abstract The objectives of the current study were to determine the amounts of above- and below-ground plant biomass production, P uptake by forage, and P concentration of cool-season grass forage as influenced by management and season. Five forage management treatments were evaluated over 3 years in smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss) pastures. Management practices were: ungrazed (U), hay harvest/fall stockpile grazing (HS), rotational stocking to residual sward heights of 10 (10R) or 5 (5R) cm, and continuous stocking to maintain sward height at 5 cm (5C). Forage samples were hand-clipped within and outside grazing exclosures monthly from April through November of each year and analyzed for mass and P concentration. Root samples were collected at the initiation and completion of the study for determination of root length density (RLD) and root surface area density (RSAD). Phosphorus concentrations of forage outside the grazing exclosures did not differ among 5C, 5R, and 10R treatments, which were greater than U paddocks in April and August and less than HS paddocks in June. Mean annual forage productivity was greater in HS, 10R, 5R, and 5C paddocks (6 744 ± 62 kg · ha−1 mean ± SE) than in the U paddocks (1 872 ± 255 kg · ha−1). Mean P concentration of forage outside exclosures was greatest during the spring (0.21 ± 0.01%), and lowest during the fall (0.13 ± 0.01%). Mean annual P uptake by forage followed the same trend as forage production, being greater in the HS, 10R, 5R, and 5C paddocks (13.9 ± 2.0 kg · ha−1) than in the U paddocks (3.7 ± 0.5 kg · ha−1). After 3 years, RLD decreased in the ungrazed paddocks, but was unchanged in the HS, 10R, 5R, and 5C paddocks. Forage production and P uptake by forage is stimulated by forage harvest, either by grazing or hay harvest in smooth bromegrass pastures.

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