Plant and Soil

, Volume 424, Issue 1–2, pp 525–537 | Cite as

Effects of including forbs on N2-fixation and N yield in red clover-ryegrass mixtures

  • Nawa Raj Dhamala
  • Jim Rasmussen
  • Georg Carlsson
  • Karen Søegaard
  • Jørgen Eriksen
Regular Article



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.


Plant diversity Temporary grassland Chicory Ribwort plantain Caraway Percentage of N2-fixation (%Ndfa) 


Funding information

This work was funded by the Green Development and Demonstration Program (GUDP project MultiPlant) as part of the Organic RDD-2 programme and coordinated by the International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems (ICROFS).

Supplementary material

11104_2017_3554_MOESM1_ESM.docx (35 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOCX 35 kb)
11104_2017_3554_MOESM2_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary Table 2 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nawa Raj Dhamala
    • 1
  • Jim Rasmussen
    • 1
  • Georg Carlsson
    • 2
  • Karen Søegaard
    • 1
  • Jørgen Eriksen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AgroecologyAarhus UniversityTjeleDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Biosystems and TechnologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden

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