Grassland Reseeding—Improving Grassland Productivity and Reducing Excess Soil Surface Nutrient Accumulations

Emma Hayes, Suzanne Higgins, Josie Geris, Donal Mullan

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Abstract

Long-term phosphorus (P) accumulation in agricultural soils presents a challenge for water quality improvement. P is commonly elevated in soils managed for intensive livestock production due to the repeated over-application of slurry and fertilizers. High legacy nutrient accumulations can result in poor water quality via transport pathways such as surface runoff, subsurface drainage, and soil erosion. To achieve the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) aims, improved management strategies are required for diffuse and point P sources. Reseeding is known to improve grassland productivity and enhance overall soil health. However, soil disturbance associated with reseeding could have positive and negative effects on several other soil functions that affect the nutrient balance (including improved microbial activity, but also increasing the potential for sediment and nutrient losses). This study investigated the role of reseeding in addressing nutrient surpluses in surface soils and identified potential trade-offs between production, environment, and soil health. At a study site in the Blackwater catchment in Northern Ireland, we collected high-resolution gridded soil samples pre- and post-reseeding for nutrient analyses and combined this with GIS-based interpolation. We found that decreases in sub-field scale nutrient content occurred following reseeding, but that this was spatially variable. This indicates that this strategy is effective in reducing soil surface P accumulations. However, more research is needed to determine whether this P becomes available for grass uptake during re-growth or whether it increases the pool of mobile P, which can be lost in surface runoff, subsurface drainage, and soil erosion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalChemistry Proceedings
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Reseeding
  • tillage
  • phosphorus
  • water quality

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