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Keywords:

  • bahiagrass;
  • pasture management;
  • nitrogen fertilization;
  • forage nutritive value

Abstract

Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Flugge) pastures are widespread in warm climates worldwide and respond to nitrogen (N) fertilizer. Nitrogen fertilization has recently decreased because of increased cost and concerns regarding excessive N in the environment. Responses of bahiagrass to treatments representing three alternative levels of pasture management were assessed. Treatments, each including 56 kg N ha−1 applied for each growth period, were as follows: (i) six harvests with a total of 336 kg N ha−1 annually (referred to as intensive management), (ii) three harvests with 168 kg N ha−1 annually (intermediate management) and (iii) two harvests with 112 kg N ha−1 annually (extensive management). The intensive management produced the most forage with the highest nutritive value. Intermediate management, with only half the amount of N fertilizer, produced at least 80% of the forage yield each year as the intensive management treatment (4-year average of 8236 vs. 9122 kg ha−1 for the intermediate and intensive management treatments respectively) with forage of acceptable nutritive value for some classes of livestock. Limited forage production from the last harvest each year restricts autumn management opportunities, even though crude protein concentration was usually sufficient for some classes of livestock. Extended growth periods, as those that occur with the less-intensive management treatments, provide opportunities to accumulate forage for late-season grazing. Matching livestock enterprises to the forage produced, particularly in terms of nutritive value, can contribute to favourable livestock production responses from a range of bahiagrass pasture management approaches.