Effects of including forbs on N2-fixation and N yield in red clover-ryegrass mixtures
Legume biological nitrogen (N2)-fixation is stimulated by neighbouring non-fixing species, but studies of legume N2-fixation in temporary grasslands including non-leguminous forage herb (forb) species are rare.
We investigated N2-fixation, N yield, and total herbage production in a range of species mixtures consisting of three forb species—chicory (Cichorium intybus L.), ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.), and caraway (Carum carvi L.)—mixed into a traditional red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) mixture at two fertilisation levels.
The percentage of red clover N derived from the atmosphere (%Ndfa) was higher in mixtures containing non-legumes than in pure stand but, did not increase with inclusion of forbs. On a whole-seasonal basis, red clover in mixtures derived 90% or more of its N from fixation even when fertilised with 216 kg total N ha−1. Forbs, in particular chicory, reduced the amount of N2-fixation and total N yields by affecting the red clover proportion in the harvested biomass.
Generally, inclusion of forbs in red clover-ryegrass mixtures had no negative effect on total herbage production and percentage of legume N2-fixation. However, to maintain a high total N and N2-fixation yields, mixtures should not include a high seeding proportion of chicory.
KeywordsPlant diversity Temporary grassland Chicory Ribwort plantain Caraway Percentage of N2-fixation (%Ndfa)
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