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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Runoff, Erosion, and Forage Production from Established Alfalfa and Smooth Bromegrass


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 88 No. 3, p. 461-466
    Received: May 26, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): rzemench@calshp.cals.wisc.edu
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  1. Robert A. Zemenchik ,
  2. Nyle C. Wollenhaupt,
  3. Kenneth A. Albrecht and
  4. Andrew H. Bosworth
  1. D ep. of Agronomy, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, 1575 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706
    S oil Teq, 5720 Smetana Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343
    D ep. of Soil Science, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, 1525 Observatory Dr., Madison WI 53706-1299



Surfaces ealing of soils in established alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) may produce runoff during intensive rainstorms, resulting in soil loss and reduced yield. We hypothesized that smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermus Leyss.) grown in mixture with alfalfa would reduce on-site runoff and soil loss, and that this should offset any negative effect on forage quality. Alfalfa, smooth bromegrass, and an alfalfa-smooth bromegrass mixture were established in 1992 on Rozetta silt loam (moderately well drained, fine-silty, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludaifs) near Lancaster, WI. A 72-ram h−1 simulated rainfall was applied for 1 h during the growing seasons of 1993 and 1994 to forage regrowth at 4 and 6 wk after first harvest and immediately after second harvest. The addition of smooth bromegrass to alfalfa did not significantly reducer unoff volume, sediment concentration, or total soil loss at any rainfall event at any stage of regrowth in either year. Furthermore, forage yield and concentrations of acid-detergent fiber and crude protein in the forage were not affected. Averaged over both years and the three sward types, runoff at 6 wk was significantly less than at 0 wk, which was significantly less than at 4 wk. Total soil loss from all sward types summed over six simulated rainstorms was between 0.19 and 0.61 Mg ha−1, much less than the 11.2 Mg ha−1 yr−1 considered tolerable for this soil. Neutraldetergent fiber (NDF) concentration of bromegrass (534 g kg−1) was greater than either the mixture (441 g kg−1) or alfalfa (404 g kg−1). Soil loss and forage quality results do not support adding smooth bromegrass to alfalfa, especially since increased NDF results in lower forage intake by ruminants and reduced milk yield in dairy cattle (Bos taurus); however, livestock operations that could efficiently utilize smooth bromegrass monocultures could reduce soil loss and runoff by doing so.

Funding was provided by the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agric. and Life Sciences, Nonpoint Pollution and Demonstration Project no. 5430. Contribution of the Wisconsin Agric. Exp. Stn.

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