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Effects of grazing strategy on limiting nitrate leaching in grazed grass-clover pastures on coarse sandy soil


E. M. Hansen. E-mail:


Urinations of ruminants on grazed pastures increase the risk of nitrate leaching. The study investigated the effect of reducing the length of the grazing season on nitrate leaching from a coarse sandy, irrigated soil during 2006–2007 and 2007–2008. In both years, precipitation was above the long-term mean. The experiment was initiated in a 4-yr-old grass-clover sward in south Denmark. Three treatments were as follows grazing only (G), spring cut followed by grazing (CG) and both spring and autumn cuts with summer grazing (CGC). Nitrate leaching was calculated by extracting water isolates from 80 cm depth using ceramic suction cups. Because of considerable variation in measured nitrate concentrations, the 32 installed suction cups per treatment were insufficient to reveal differences between treatments. However, weighted nitrate leaching estimations for G, CG and CGC showed estimated mean nitrate N concentrations of 23, 19 and 13 mg/L for an estimated proportion area occupied by urine patches of 0.33, 0.26 and 0.16, respectively. Thus, N concentrations in G and CG exceeded the EU limit of 11.3 mg N/L. Under the prevailing conditions, the time of urination did not appear important. The estimated background leaching calculated from suction cups presumably not situated under urine patches resulted in mean nitrate N concentrations of 2.6 mg/L.