The effect of soil type on yield and micronutrient content of pasture species

PLoS One. 2022 Nov 2;17(11):e0277091. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277091. eCollection 2022.


The use of multispecies swards on livestock farms is growing due to the wide range of benefits they bring, such as improved biomass yield and animal performance. Preferential uptake of micronutrients by some plant species means the inclusion of legumes and forbs in grass-dominated pasture swards could improve micronutrient provision to livestock via careful species selection. However, although soil properties affect plant micronutrient concentrations, it is unknown whether choosing ‘best-performing’ species, in terms of their micronutrient content, needs to be soil-specific or whether the recommendations can be more generic. To address this question, we carried out an experiment with 15 common grass, forb and legume species grown on four soils for five weeks in a controlled environment. The soils were chosen to have contrasting properties such as texture, organic matter content and micronutrient concentrations. The effect of soil pH was tested on two soils (pH 5.4 and 7.4) chosen to minimise other confounding variables. Yield was significantly affected by soil properties and there was a significant interaction with botanical group but not species within a botanical group (grass, forb or legume). There were differences between botanical groups and between species in both their micronutrient concentrations and total uptake. Micronutrient herbage concentrations often, but not always, reflected soil micronutrient concentrations. There were soil-botanical group interactions for micronutrient concentration and uptake by plants, but the interaction between plant species (within a botanical group) and soil was significant only for forbs, and predominantly occurred when considering micronutrient uptake rather than concentration. Generally, plants had higher yields and micronutrient contents at pH 5.4 than 7.4. Forbs tended to have higher concentrations of micronutrients than other botanical groups and the effect of soil on micronutrient uptake was only significant for forbs.

PMID:36322593 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0277091


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