Nitrogen transfer from forage legumes to nine neighbouring plants in a multi-species grassland

Karin Pirhofer-Walzl, Jim Rasmussen, Henning Høgh Jensen, Jørgen Eriksen, Karen Søegaard, Jesper Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Legumes play a crucial role in nitrogen supply to grass-legume mixtures for ruminant fodder. To quantify N transfer from legumes to neighbouring plants in multi-species grasslands we established a grass-legume-herb mixture on a loamy-sandy site in Denmark. White clover (Trifolium repens L.), red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) were leaf-labelled with 15N enriched urea during one growing season. N transfer to grasses (Lolium perenne L. and xfestulolium), white clover, red clover, lucerne, birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.), chicory (Cichorium intybus L.), plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.), salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor L.) and caraway (Carum carvi L.) was assessed. Neighbouring plants contained greater amounts of N derived from white clover (4.8 g m-2) compared with red clover (2.2 g m-2) and lucerne (1.1 g m-2). Grasses having fibrous roots received greater amounts of N from legumes than dicotyledonous plants which generally have taproots. Slurry application mainly increased N transfer from legumes to grasses. During the growing season the three legumes transferred approximately 40 kg N ha-1 to neighbouring plants. Below-ground N transfer from legumes to neighbouring plants differed among nitrogen donors and nitrogen receivers and may depend on root characteristics and regrowth strategies of plant species in the multi-species grassland.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)71-84
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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