Long-term trends in yield variance of temperate managed grassland

Agron Sustain Dev. 2023;43(3):37. doi: 10.1007/s13593-023-00885-w. Epub 2023 Apr 26.


The management of climate-resilient grassland systems is important for stable livestock fodder production. In the face of climate change, maintaining productivity while minimizing yield variance of grassland systems is increasingly challenging. To achieve climate-resilient and stable productivity of grasslands, a better understanding of the climatic drivers of long-term trends in yield variance and its dependence on agronomic inputs is required. Based on the Park Grass Experiment at Rothamsted (UK), we report for the first time the long-term trends in yield variance of grassland (1965-2018) in plots given different fertilizer and lime applications, with contrasting productivity and plant species diversity. We implemented a statistical model that allowed yield variance to be determined independently of yield level. Environmental abiotic covariates were included in a novel criss-cross regression approach to determine climatic drivers of yield variance and its dependence on agronomic management. Our findings highlight that sufficient liming and moderate fertilization can reduce yield variance while maintaining productivity and limiting loss of plant species diversity. Plots receiving the highest rate of nitrogen fertilizer or farmyard manure had the highest yield but were also more responsive to environmental variability and had less plant species diversity. We identified the days of water stress from March to October and temperature from July to August as the two main climatic drivers, explaining approximately one-third of the observed yield variance. These drivers helped explain consistent unimodal trends in yield variance-with a peak in approximately 1995, after which variance declined. Here, for the first time, we provide a novel statistical framework and a unique long-term dataset for understanding the trends in yield variance of managed grassland. The application of the criss-cross regression approach in other long-term agro-ecological trials could help identify climatic drivers of production risk and to derive agronomic strategies for improving the climate resilience of cropping systems.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s13593-023-00885-w.

PMID:37124333 | PMC:PMC10133363 | DOI:10.1007/s13593-023-00885-w


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