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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Waste Management

Nitrogen Availability from Composts for Humid Region Perennial Grass and Legume–Grass Forage Production


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 4, p. 1509-1520
    Received: June 2, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): dlynch@nsac.ns.ca
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  1. D. H. Lynch *a,
  2. R. P. Voroneyb and
  3. P. R. Warmana
  1. a Department of Environmental Science, Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC), P.O. Box 550, Truro, NS, Canada B2N 5E3
    b Department of Land Resource Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1


Perennial forages may be ideally suited for fertilization with slow N release amendments such as composts, but difficulties in predicting N supply from composts have limited their routine use in forage production. A field study was conducted to compare the yield and protein content of a binary legume–grass forage mixture and a grass monocrop cut twice annually, when fertilized with diverse composts. In all three years from 1998–2000, timothy (Phleum pratense L.)–red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and timothy swards were fertilized with ammonium nitrate (AN) at up to 150 and 300 kg N ha−1 yr−1, respectively. Organic amendments, applied at up to 600 kg N ha−1 yr−1 in the first two years only, included composts derived from crop residue (CSC), dairy manure (DMC), or sewage sludge (SSLC), plus liquid dairy manure (DM). Treatments DM at 150 kg N ha−1 yr−1 and CSC at 600 kg N ha−1 yr−1 produced cumulative timothy yields matching those obtained for inorganic fertilizer. Apparent nitrogen recovery (ANR) ranged from 0.65% (SSLC) to 15.1% (DMC) for composts, compared with 29.4% (DM) and 36.5% (AN). The legume component (approximately 30%) of the binary mixture acted as an effective “N buffer” maintaining forage yield and protein content consistently higher, and within a narrower range, across all treatments. Integrating compost utilization into livestock systems that use legume–grass mixtures may reduce the risk of large excesses or deficits of N, moderate against potential losses in crop yield and quality, and by accommodating lower application rates of composts, reduce soil P and K accumulation.

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