oa Agriprobe - Strategic N fertilization of perennial ryegrass-white clover pastures

Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1810-9799



Climatic conditions in the southern Cape do not favour continuous high fodder productivity. Low temperatures and shorter days during the cooler seasons cause a steep decline in dry matter production. Seasonal production of perennial ryegrass-white clover pastures decreases to ca 500 kg DM/month in June and July followed by an increase to ca 2000 kg DM/month in October and November. This lower productivity of cultivated pastures during the cool season, the so called ""winter or feed gap"", is of major concern and very difficult to address successfully. In perennial ryegrass-white clover pastures soil temperatures below about 9C will restrict soil N mineralisation and nitrification, as well as the productivity of clover. Ryegrass is reported to grow and respond to fertilizer N application at soil temperatures as low as 5C. This tendency creates an opportunity to increase pasture production by stimulating ryegrass growth when clover activity is restricted due to low soil temperatures. The negative effect of fertilizer N on clover activity may thus be minimal due to the inactivity of clover at relatively low temperatures.

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