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Soil tests for predicting nitrogen supply for grassland under controlled environmental conditions

  • N. T. MCDONALD (a1) (a2), C. J. WATSON (a2) (a3), R. J. LAUGHLIN (a3), S. T. J. LALOR (a4), J. GRANT (a5) and D. P. WALL (a4)...

Summary

Mineralized soil nitrogen (N) is an important source of N for grassland production. Some soils can supply large quantities of plant-available N through mineralization of soil organic matter. Grass grown on such soils require less fertilizer N applications per unit yield. A reliable, accurate and user-friendly method to account for soil N supply potential across a large diversity of soils and growing conditions is needed to improve N management and N recommendations over time. In the current study, the effectiveness of chemical N tests and soil properties to predict soil N supply for grass uptake across 30 Irish soil types varying in N supply potential was investigated under controlled environmental conditions. The Illinois soil N test (ISNT) combined with soil C : N ratio provided a good estimate of soil N supply in soils with low residual mineral N. Total oxidized N (TON) had the largest impact on grass dry matter (DM) yield and N uptake across the 30 soil types, declining in its influence in later growth periods. This reflected the high initial mineral N levels in these soils, which declined over time. In the current study, a model with ISNT-N, C : N and TON (log TON) best explained variability in grass DM yield and N uptake. All three rapid chemical soil tests could be performed routinely on field samples to provide an estimate of soil N supply prior to making N fertilizer application decisions. It can be concluded that these soil tests, through their assessment of soil N supply potential, can be effective tools for N management on grassland; however, field studies are needed to evaluate this under more diverse growing conditions.

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Corresponding author

* To whom all correspondence should be addressed. Email: david.wall@teagasc.ie

References

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