• Can herbage nitrogen fractionation in Lolium perenne be improved by herbage management?

      Hoekstra, Nyncke J.; Struik, Paul; Lantinga, Egbert A.; Van Amburgh, Michael; Schulte, Rogier P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2009-08-20)
      The high degradability of grass protein is an important factor in the low nitrogen (N) utilization of grazing bovines in intensive European grassland systems. We tested the hypothesis that protein degradability as measured by the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS) protein fractionation scheme, can be manipulated by herbage management tools, with the aim to reduce N loss to the environment. A field experiment comprising the factorial combinations of three fertilizer N application rates (0, 90 and 390 kg N ha−1 year−1), three regrowth periods (2–3, 4–5, and 6–7 weeks), two perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cultivars [Aberdart (high sugar content) and Respect (low sugar content)] and two cutting heights (approximately 8 and 12 cm) was conducted at Teagasc, Johnstown Castle Research Centre, Wexford, Ireland. The plots were sampled during four seasons [September/October 2002 (late season), April 2003 (early season), May/June 2003 (mid season) and September 2003 (late season)] and protein fractions were determined in both sheath and lamina material. The protein was highly soluble and on average 19% and 28% of total N was in the form of non-protein N, 16% and 19% in the form of buffer-soluble protein, 52% and 40% in the form of buffer-insoluble protein, and 12% and 13% in the form of potentially available cell wall N for lamina and sheath material, respectively. In both materials only 0.9% of total N was present as unavailable cell wall N. In general the herbage management tools investigated did not have much effect on protein fractionation. The effects of regrowth period, cultivar and cutting height were small and inconsistent. High N application rates significantly increased protein degradability, especially during late season. This is relevant, as it has been shown that enhanced protein degradation increases the potential N loss through urine excretion at a time when urine-N excreted onto pasture is prone to leaching. However, the effect was most evident for sheath material, which forms only a small proportion of the animals' intake. It was concluded that there appears to be little scope for manipulating the herbage-N fractionation through herbage management. The consequences for modelling herbage quality could be positive as there does not seem to be a need to model the individual N fractions; in most cases the N fractions can be expressed as a fixed proportion of total N instead.
    • Chemical composition of lamina and sheath of Lolium perenne as affected by herbage management

      Hoekstra, Nyncke J.; Struik, Paul C.; Lantinga, E. A.; Schulte, Rogier P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2009-08-20)
      The quality of grass in terms of form and relative amounts of energy and protein affects both animal production per unit of intake and nitrogen (N) utilization. Quality can be manipulated by herbage management and choice of cultivar. The effects of N application rate (0, 90 or 390 kg N ha−1 year−1), duration of regrowth period (2–3, 4–5, or 6–7 weeks), and cutting height (8 or 12 cm) on the mass fractions of nitrogen (N), water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), acid detergent fibre (ADF), lignin and ash in lamina and sheath material of a high-sugar (Aberdart) and a low-sugar (Respect) perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) cultivar, were studied in a factorial field experiment during four seasons in 2002 and 2003. Expressing NDF and ADF mass fractions in g per kg WSC-free dry matter (DM) increased the consistency of treatment effects. The high-sugar cultivar had generally higher WSC mass fractions than the low-sugar cultivar, especially during the late season. Moreover, the relative difference in WSC mass fraction between the two cultivars tended to be higher for the lamina material than for the sheath material, which suggests that the high-sugar trait may be more important under grazing conditions, when lamina forms the bulk of the intake, than under mowing regimes. Longer regrowth periods and lower N application rates increased WSC mass fractions and decreased N mass fractions; interactions between regrowth period and N application rate were highly significant. The mass fractions of NDF and ADF were much less influenced. The NDF mass fraction in terms of g per kg WSC-free DM tended to be higher at lower N application rates and at longer regrowth periods. The effect of cutting height on herbage chemical composition was unclear. In conclusion, high-sugar cultivars, N application rate and length of the regrowth period are important tools for manipulating herbage quality.