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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Effects of Cattle Feces Rapidly Buried by Dung Beetles on Yield and Quality of Coastal Bermudagrass1


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 73 No. 5, p. 775-779
    Received: Aug 4, 1980

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  1. G. T. Fincher,
  2. W. G. Monson and
  3. G. W. Burton2



Cattle numbers have steadily increased in the southeastern United States partly in response to increased fertilizer use and higher producing forage varieties that permit higher stocking rates. Heavily stocked pastures result in accumulation of feces on pasture surfaces and contamination of forage. This study was initiated to study the effects of rapid burial of cattle feces by dung beetles on Coastal bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers]. Fresh cattle feces containing the equivalent of 224 kg N/ha were applied to duplicate plots of Coastal bermudagrass for determinations of pasture yield: 1) when feces are buried by dung beetles, and 2) when feces remain on the pasture surface. The soil was a Tifton loamy sand (Plinthic Palendults; fine-loamy, siliceous, thermic family) . Dung beetles confined to one-half of the plots buried 78% (175 kg N/ha) of the applied feces. Total dry matter yields were 7,791 kg/ha where the feces were buried by beetles and 6,364 kg/ha where not buried as compared to yields of 5,369 and 8,305 kg/ha where 112 and 224 kg N/ha were applied as ammonium nitrate. The yield from plots with the buried feces was not significantly different from that from plots receiving 224 kg/ha of N fertilizer. Similar results were obtained when wheat was oversecded on Coastal bermudagrass plots in which the effect of application of ammonium nitrate fertilizer was compared with that of cattle feces buried by dung beetles in the fall. Burial of feces by a greater than normal dung beetle population on pasture with grazing cattle also produced higher yields of Coastal bermudagrass compared to similar pastures with lower dung beetle populations. The results indicated that Increasing the dung beetle population on pastures by introduction of foreign species of beetles would be very beneficial for forage production in high density grazing systems.

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