Studies of responses of native and introduced grassland species to lime and phosphorus (P) applications could contribute to improved understanding of the potential production of South American natural grasslands. To determine the effect of applying lime and different P sources on forage production, diversity and floristic composition, and on soil chemical properties, a small-plot experiment was conducted over 12 years in natural grassland oversown with Lolium multiflorum and Trifolium vesiculosum in the Campos of southern Brazil. In treatments with soluble phosphate application, dry-matter (DM) yield in November 2008, after 164 d of winter and early spring growth, increased from 2·3 to 3·2 t ha−1. Differences in DM yield in March 2009, after 111 d of growth during late spring and early summer, were not significant. The DM yield in April 2010, after 419 d of growth, increased from 7·7 to 9·2 t ha−1 in the treatments with P, regardless of the P source. Increased forage yield during the slow growth period in winter was only possible with the introduction of winter-growing species (L. multiflorum and T. vesiculosum) and soluble phosphate application. Assessment of annual forage yield showed that the effectiveness of Gafsa rock phosphate was equivalent to that of soluble phosphates in the long term. Soluble phosphates and liming modified the botanical composition of natural Campos grassland in the long term, but floristic diversity was not altered.