Plant and Soil

, Volume 412, Issue 1–2, pp 133–142 | Cite as

Herbicide application during pasture renewal initially increases root turnover and carbon input to soil in perennial ryegrass and white clover pasture

  • Samuel R. McNallyEmail author
  • Daniel C. Laughlin
  • Susanna Rutledge
  • Mike B. Dodd
  • Johan Six
  • Louis A. Schipper
Regular Article



Increasing the input and turnover of root tissue is considered to be one method that may increase carbon (C) inputs and storage in soil. The use of herbicide during pasture renewal (periodic re-sowing of pasture) is expected to increase root inputs and turnover as plants die. The objective of this study was to quantify the short-term impact of pasture renewal on root turnover and C input to soil of ryegrass-clover pastures.


Pastures were labelled in the field using a 13C isotope pulse labelling method within 1 m2 clear chambers. Five daily labelling events were carried out during one week in paired treatment plots within 3 replicate paddocks. One plot per paddock was sprayed with herbicide and then the pasture was renewed by direct drilling of seed. The 13C of roots and soil (0–100 mm) was measured at regular intervals over an 89-day period.


Herbicide application caused an initial rapid turnover time of 17 days followed by a slower turnover time of 524 days, compared to unsprayed pasture which had a root turnover of 585 days. Faster root turnover following herbicide application resulted in greater cumulative C input to soil over 89 days with approximately double the C input in the sprayed treatment (3238 ± 378 kg C ha−1) compared to the unsprayed treatment (1726 ± 540 kg C ha−1).


The use of glyphosate during pasture renewal increased root turnover and resulted in a greater short term cumulative C input to soil. This study provides the first values of root turnover and C input to soil during a pasture renewal event in New Zealand pasture systems and contributes to the understanding of how pasture roots may influence the soil C input following plant death in grassland systems.


Ryegrass-clover Pasture renewal Root turnover Soil carbon input Temperate pastures Carbon storage 



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and Eric Paterson (editor) for their suggestions to improve the manuscript. We would like to acknowledge funding provided through the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse gas Research Centre, DairyNZ and the University of Waikato Doctoral Scholarship. Also to DairyNZ and Scott Farm staff for allowing this study to be carried out on site, and particularly Chris Roach, Deanne Waugh, Jason Phillips and other staff for all the help throughout the project. We would also like to acknowledge Janine Ryburn, Dean Sandwell, and Anjana Radjendram for laboratory assistance and sample analysis.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)
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ESM 3 (DOCX 245 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel R. McNally
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Daniel C. Laughlin
    • 1
  • Susanna Rutledge
    • 1
  • Mike B. Dodd
    • 2
  • Johan Six
    • 3
  • Louis A. Schipper
    • 1
  1. 1.School of ScienceUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.AgResearch LimitedGrasslands Research CentrePalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Systems Science, Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyETH-ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research LimitedChristchurchNew Zealand

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