The influence of nitrogen and defoliation on production and water-use efficiency of Lolium multiflorum cv. Midmar

  • JF Theron, Department of Agriculture, FSR-E Unit, Private Bag X01, Glen, 9360 South Africa
  • WLJ van Rensburg
Keywords: botany, defoliation, dry matter content, forage yield, Free State, Glen Agricultural Development Institute, irrigation, <i>Lolium multiflorum</i>, nitrogen, nitrogen use efficiency, production, ryegrass, South Africa, water use, water use efficiency, yiel


The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of different nitrogen fertiliser application levels in combination with different defoliation intervals on the dry matter (DM) production and water-use efficiency of ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) cv. Midmar. In a field trial, four nitrogen levels (0, 150, 300 and 450kg N ha-1) were combined with five defoliation intervals (every 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks and twice a season). Soil moisture levels were measured with a neutron hydroprobe and were used to schedule irrigation. The dry matter production, nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE), plant DM content and water-use efficiency were influenced (P < 0.01) by nitrogen level, defoliation interval, and the interaction between these factors. Total DM production varied from 64 to 20 922kg DM ha-1. Dry matter production per unit of applied N decreased with an increase in N level within a defoliation interval. The plant DM content varied from 14.0% to 35.6%. The plant DM content decreased (P < 0.05) with increasing N applications, while a lengthening of the defoliation interval resulted in an increase (P < 0.05) in the DM content. No difference (P < 0.05) was found in total water used when plants received N. Water-use efficiency varied from 1.2 to 25.8kg DM h-1mm water received.

Keywords: botany; defoliation; dry matter content; forage yield; Free State; Glen Agricultural Development Institute; irrigation; Lolium multiflorum; nitrogen; nitrogen use efficiency; production; ryegrass; South Africa; water use; water use efficiency; yield; dry matter production; efficiency; intervals; levels; nitrogen levels; season

African Journal of Range & Forage Science, Vol. 15(1 & 2), pp. 35–40

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eISSN: 1727-9380
print ISSN: 1022-0119