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The effect of pasture utilization rate on stocks of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen in a semi-arid tropical grassland

Pringle, M.J. and Allen, D.E. and Phelps, D.G. and Bray, S.G. and Orton, T.G. and Dalal, R.C. (2014) The effect of pasture utilization rate on stocks of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen in a semi-arid tropical grassland. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 195 . p. 83. ISSN 01678809

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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2014.05.013

Abstract

The influence of grazing management on total soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil total nitrogen (TN) in tropical grasslands is an issue of considerable ecological and economic interest. Here we have used linear mixed models to investigate the effect of grazing management on stocks of SOC and TN in the top 0.5 m of the soil profile. The study site was a long-term pasture utilization experiment, 26 years after the experiment was established for sheep grazing on native Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.) pasture in northern Australia. The pasture utilization rates were between 0% (exclosure) and 80%, assessed visually. We found that a significant amount of TN had been lost from the top 0.1 m of the soil profile as a result of grazing, with 80% pasture utilization resulting in a loss of 84 kg ha−1 over the 26-year period. There was no significant effect of pasture utilization rate on TN when greater soil depths were considered. There was no significant effect of pasture utilization rate on stocks of SOC and soil particulate organic carbon (POC), or the C:N ratio at any depth; however, visual trends in the data suggested some agreement with the literature, whereby increased grazing pressure appeared to: (i) decrease SOC and POC stocks; and, (ii) increase the C:N ratio. Overall, the statistical power of the study was limited, and future research would benefit from a more comprehensive sampling scheme. Previous studies at the site have found that a pasture utilization rate of 30% is sustainable for grazing production on Mitchell grass; however, given our results, we conclude that N inputs (possibly through management of native N2-fixing pasture legumes) should be made for long-term maintenance of soil health, and pasture productivity, within this ecosystem.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Subjects:Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Deposited On:25 Aug 2014 02:05
Last Modified:25 Aug 2014 02:05

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