Dairy soil bacterial responses to nitrogen application in simulated Italian ryegrass and white clover pasture

Karl B.W. Svatos, Lynette K. Abbott

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Through clearing and use of fertilizer and legumes, areas of southwestern Australia's unique coastal sand plains can support relatively low-cost dairies. However, the ancient, highly weathered nature of the soils in this region makes the dairies susceptible to a range of threats, including nutrient leaching and erosion. Despite this, Western Australian dairy cows typically produce up to 5,500 L of milk per head annually supported by inorganic nitrogen (N) fertilizer (commonly 50:50 urea and ammonium sulfate) at rates up to <320 kg of N/ha per year. Where hotspots exist (up to 2,000 kg of N/ha per year), total N exceeds pasture requirements. We investigated plant and soil bacteria responses to N fertilizer rates consistent with Australian legislated production practices on dairy farms for pure and mixed swards of white clover (Trifolium repens) and Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) in a long-term pasture experiment in controlled glasshouse conditions. Although the soil bacterial community structure at phylum level was similar for white clover and Italian ryegrass, relative abundances of specific subgroups of bacteria differed among plant species according to the N fertilizer regimen. Marked increases in relative abundance of some bacterial phyla and subphyla indicated potential inhibition of N cycling, especially for N hotspots in soil. Ammonium concentration in soil was less correlated with dominance of some N-cycling bacterial phyla than was nitrate concentration. Changes in bacterial community structure related to altered nutrient cycling highlight the potential for considering this area of research in policy assessment frameworks related to nutrient loads in dairy soils, especially for N.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9495-9504
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


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