Browsing Grassland Science by Title
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Urine patch distribution under dairy grazing at three stocking rates in IrelandNitrate pollution of water is a serious global environmental issue. Grassland agriculture is a major source of diffuse nitrate pollution, with much of this nitrate originating from the urine patches of grazing animals. To study nitrate losses from grassland it is necessary to consider the areas of grassland that are affected by urine separately from the remainder of the pasture. Urine patches can be observed in the field as areas of vigorously growing pasture, however the pasture may continue to respond for several months, making it difficult to determine when the observed patch was actually deposited. A global positioning system was used to record the location of all urine and dung patches in a pasture at every second grazing on an Irish dairy farm during the grazing season. Any patches reappearing were removed from the data, allowing the fresh urine patches to be identified. Dairy cows deposited 0.359 urine patches per grazing hour, a value that may be used to predict the distribution of urine patches under any grazing regime. This equated to 14.1 to 20.7% of the soil surface being wet by urine annually at stocking rates of 2.0 to 2.94 cows per hectare, consistent with previous research. These values may be used in conjunction with values for nitrate loss from urine and non-urine areas to calculate nitrate losses from grazed pasture at a range of stocking rates.
Using variable importance measures to identify a small set of SNPs to predict heading date in perennial ryegrass.Prior knowledge on heading date enables the selection of parents of synthetic cultivars that are well matched with respect to time of heading, which is essential to ensure plants put together will cross pollinate. Heading date of individual plants can be determined via direct phenotyping, which has a time and labour cost. It can also be inferred from family means, although the spread in days to heading within families demands roguing in first generation synthetics. Another option is to predict heading date from molecular markers. In this study we used a large training population consisting of individual plants to develop equations to predict heading date from marker genotypes. Using permutation-based variable selection measures we reduced the marker set from 217,563 to 50 without impacting the predictive ability. Opportunities exist to develop a cheap assay to sequence a small number of regions in linkage disequilibrium with heading date QTL in thousands of samples. Simultaneous use of these markers in non-linkage based marker-assisted selection approaches, such as paternity testing, should enhance the utility of such an approach.
The variation in morphology of perennial ryegrass cultivars throughout the grazing season and effects on organic matter digestibilityThe grass plant comprises leaf, pseudostem, true stem (including inflorescence) and dead material. These components differ in digestibility, and variations in their relative proportions can affect sward quality. The objective of this study was to determine the change in the proportion and organic matter digestibility (OMD) of leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead components of four perennial ryegrass cultivars (two tetraploids: Astonenergy and Bealey and two diploids: Abermagic and Spelga) throughout a grazing season. The DM proportions and in vitro OMD of leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead in all cultivars were determined during ten grazing rotations between May 2011 and March 2012. There was an interaction between rotation and cultivar for leaf, pseudostem, true stem and dead proportions. In May and June, Astonenergy had the highest leaf and lowest true stem proportion (P < 0·05). From July onwards, there was no difference in leaf or true stem proportion between cultivars. Bealey had the highest annual mean OMD (752 g kg−1) and Spelga the lowest (696 g kg−1; P < 0·05). The OMD followed the order leaf > pseudostem > true stem > dead. Bealey had the highest combined leaf and pseudostem proportion 0·92, which explains why it had the highest OMD. In this study, the tetraploid cultivars had the highest leaf and pseudostem proportion and OMD. For accurate descriptions of a sward in grazing studies and to accurately determine sward morphological composition, pseudostem should be separated from true stem, particularly during the reproductive stage when true stem is present.
Variations in travel time for N loading to groundwaters in four case studies in Ireland:Implications for policy makers and regulatorsMitigation measures to protect waterbodies must be implemented by 2012 to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. The efficacy of these measures will be assessed in 2015. Whilst diffuse N pathways between source and receptor are generally long and complex, EU legislation does not account for differences in hydrological travel time distributions that may result in different water quality response times. The “lag time” between introducing mitigation measures and first improvements in water quality is likely to be different in different catchments; a process that should be considered by policy makers and catchment managers. Many examples of travel time variations have been quoted in the literature but no Irish specific examples are available. Lag times based on initial nutrient breakthrough at four contrasting sites were estimated to a receptor 500 m away from a source. Vertical travel times were estimated using a combination of depth of infiltration calculations based on effective rainfall and subsoil physical parameters and existing hydrological tracer data. Horizontal travel times were estimated using a combination of Darcian linear velocity calculations and existing tracer migration data. Total travel times, assuming no biogeochemical processes, ranged from months to decades between the contrasting sites; the shortest times occurred under thin soil/subsoil on karst limestone and the longest times through thick low permeability soils/subsoils over poorly productive aquifers. Policy makers should consider hydrological lag times when assessing the efficacy of mitigation measures introduced under the Water Framework Directive. This lag time reflects complete flushing of a particular nutrient from source to receptor. Further research is required to assess the potential mitigation of nitrate through denitrification along the pathway from source to receptor.