Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 59–69 | Cite as

A nitrogen and phosphorus herbage nutrient index as a tool for assessing the effect of N and P supply on the dry matter yield of permanent pastures

  • M. Duru
  • H. Ducrocq


In order to propose consistent decision rules for fertilizer supply, a study was made on the effect of additions of N and P fertilizers and of their interaction on the above-ground dry matter yield of pastures during spring. The interaction between N and P could occur through nutrient acquisition or nutrient efficiency for growth. We therefore characterised the herbage N and P status (N and P index) from previously established critical curves of herbage mineral content according to above-ground dry matter. First we studied the effect of N and P addition on herbage nutrient status. Secondly, we expressed the above-ground dry matter as a function of the herbage nutrient status. This study consisted of four treatments applied to four permanent pastures which had a low phosphorus availability. The results showed a positive effect of P supply on the herbage nitrogen status, which may be due to an increase of organic matter mineralization or root growth. The P herbage status decreased only if N was supplied without P. The dry matter yield was positively related to the herbage nitrogen status, but a low P herbage status reduced the slope of the relationship. For the pastures studied, the indirect effect of P supply on above-ground dry matter, revealed by an increase in N index, was greater than its direct effect. This methodology allows us to distinguish the direct and indirect effects of N and P addition on herbage growth at field level. It could be used to propose consistent rules to manage jointly both N and P supplies.

Key words

fertilizer nitrogen nutrition pastures phosphorus 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Duru
    • 1
  • H. Ducrocq
    • 1
  1. 1.INRA Station d'AgronomieCastanet-TolosanFrance

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