Effects of free-range broiler production on vegetation characteristic and soil physicochemical property of the stocking areas in China
Free-range broiler production is an effective combination of ecological and economic benefits which should be further standardized. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of free-range broiler production on ecosystem by measuring the changes in vegetation characteristics and soil physicochemical properties under different stocking densities. A natural meadow with rich biodiversity was created and further divided into three groups. The broilers were reared in door and provided range access around 6 to 22 weeks of age with two different densities, 600 and 1200 broilers/ha. The vegetation characteristics and soil physicochemical properties, such as total coverage, soil nutrition and pH value, were measured at the beginning and the end of stocking. The results showed that the vegetation characteristics and soil physicochemical properties changed significantly after free-range stocking. The dominant plants, total coverage, richness index, diversity and biomass above-ground of treatment groups illustrated a considerable difference comparing with those in control group, and the indicators of soil physicochemical properties in treatment groups increased remarkably except the pH value. The present study demonstrated the higher stocking density would cause a more serious destruction of vegetation characteristics and modification of soil physicochemical properties, which suggested that an even lower stocking density or an alternative management such as rotational grazing could be a better choice for free-range broiler production.
KeywordsChinese chicken production Natural meadow Stocking density Ecosystem
We are grateful to the editors and reviewers for the careful reviews and the honest advice. Particular thanks go to all of the people for their help with sample collection. This work was supported by Chinese National Agriculture Research System (CARS-41-G04), the Project of National Science and Technology Plan for the Rural Development in China (2015BAD03B03) and Key Technology Support Program of Sichuan Province (2016NYZ0025, 2016NYZ0052, 2019YFN0009).
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