Three rates of phosphate (0, 25 and 60 kg/ha P2O5) were applied for 7 years to phosphate-deficient grassland at Tel Hadya, north Syria. Liveweight, milk yield, wool production and supplementary feeding of Awassi sheep were monitored for six seasons (1985/86 to 1990/91). The experiment was grazed at low (0·8 sheep/ha per year) and high (1·7 sheep/ha per year) stocking rates from the second to the fourth season, while in the fifth to seventh seasons stocking rates were increased to 1·1 and 2·3 sheep/ha per year, respectively. The experimental site was typical of communally owned, degraded grasslands within the cereal zone of west Asia, where cropping is not possible because of shallow, stony soils and steep slopes.
The results showed that annual applications of phosphate, even at 25 kg/ha, improved pasture and sheep productivity. Liveweights were higher on fertilized plots in five out of six years, significantly so in the last three. Milk production was also higher on phosphate-treated plots, and the need for supplementary feeding was reduced, especially in the last three years, when rainfall was below average. The results suggest that stocking rates can be significantly increased by annual applications of small amounts of superphospate, and that doing so is profitable.
Use of the results depends on the presence of native legumes, the level of soil phosphate, and the ability of farmers to control grazing of these communally owned grasslands. A strategy to fulfil these criteria is suggested.