Herbage production and quality of a range of secondary grass species at five rates of fertilizer nitrogen application


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The productivity of ten grasses was measured under six cuts per annum for 3 years and three cuts for a fourth harvest year in comparison with a perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) control. The grasses were Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus), two red fescues (Festuca rubra), creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera), bent (Agrostis castellana), bent (Agrostis capillaris), smooth meadow‐grass (Poa pratensis), crested dogstail (Cynosurus cristatus), sweet vernal (Anthoxanthum odoratum) and timothy (Phleum bertolonii). Another grass sown, rough meadow‐grass (Poa trivialis), did not persist after the first harvest year. Annual N rates were 0, 120, 240, 360 and 480 kg ha−1. Classified by DM production, the grasses grouped into: high (perennial ryegrass, Yorkshire fog and red fescue), intermediate (creeping bent, bent (A. castellana), crested dogstail and smooth meadow‐grass) and low (bent (A. capillaris), sweet vernal and timothy. With frequent cutting, production ranking interacted with N rate: Yorkshire fog. red fescue and creeping bent were more productive than ryegrass at the 0 N and 120 N rates but not at higher N rates; crested dogstail and sweet vernal outperformed ryegrass at 0 N; ryegrass and smooth meadow‐grass performed relatively better at moderate to high N. DM production of ryegrass was matched or exceeded by some of the other grasses during different parts of the season particularly at low N rates. Notable features from the 3‐cut regime were the outstanding DM production of Yorkshire fog at all N rates and the poor production of bent (A. capillaris) and crested dogstail. High DM response to applied N in both cutting regimes was given by perennial ryegrass. smooth meadow‐grass, red fescue cv. Boreal, timothy, crested dogstail and Yorkshire fog. N concentrations were highest in less productive grasses such as the bents and lowest in highly productive ryegrass and Yorkshire fog. Ryegrass was superior in digestibility to the other grasses, but especially to the red fescues, bents and smooth meadow‐grass. The other grasses, especially Yorkshire fog and bent (A. capillaris) were superior to ryegrass in P, K and Mg concentrations, but not Ca. It is concluded that the annual and/or seasonal production of some of the secondary grasses at low to moderate N rates, e.g. the performance of Yorkshire fog and red fescue, warrant a reconsideration of their poor reputation, particularly within the context of increasing grassland extensification. Breeding to improve selected characteristics, such as digestibility in red fescue, seems justified. Assessment of the grazing and ensiling qualities of secondary grasses require further study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-151
Number of pages13
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPrint publication - Jun 1991


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