Pasture responses to phosphorus and nitrogen fertilisers on dry hill country


  • A.G. Gillingham
  • M.H. Gray
  • D.R. Smith



In order to evaluate the relative responsiveness of summer-dry hill pasture to phosphate (P) and nitrogen (N) fertilisers, a large scale field trial was established in southern Hawke's Bay in 1995. Pasture growth rates and species, and soil moisture levels were measured on easy and steep slopes of generally north- and south-facing aspects in two pairs of farmlets with either a Low or High soil P status, one of each pair also receiving 30 kg N/ha annually in winter. Soil moisture levels were always higher on south- than on north-facing slopes, the difference being greatest from autumn to spring. However, total annual pasture growth was higher on north aspects because of better winter production, whereas the colder, south aspects produced little pasture at this time. In other seasons, pasture growth was similar on both aspects. Pasture growth was higher on easy than on steep slopes at all times. P responses occurred from spring to autumn especially on south aspects, and on easy north-facing slopes, which showed a large increase in clover growth. N responses were best in winter and autumn especially on steep, north aspects and at Low P conditions. N application depressed clover production, especially in the High P+N fertiliser treatment, where there was no net increase in production compared with the High P treatment. Only tentative conclusions can be made at this time since the pasture is considered to be still in a development phase. However, results suggest that application of P only to south aspects and moist north slopes, and for steep, north-facing slopes to receive N, plus only limited P, will be the most efficient fertiliser policy. Keywords: dry hill country, phosphate response, nitrogen response, pasture production, slope, aspect







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