Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Intrinsic capacity for nutrient foraging predicts critical external phosphorus requirement of 12 pasture legumes

Graeme A. Sandral A D , Rebecca E. Haling B , Megan H. Ryan C , Andrew Price A , Wayne M. Pitt A , Shane M. Hildebrand A , Christopher G. Fuller A , Daniel R. Kidd C , Adam Stefanksi B , Hans Lambers C and Richard J. Simpson B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Pine Gully Road, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia.

B CSIRO Agriculture and Food, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C School of Plant Biology and UWA Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: graeme.sandral@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Crop and Pasture Science 69(2) 174-182 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP17276
Submitted: 31 July 2017  Accepted: 7 November 2017   Published: 25 January 2018

Abstract

The mainstream pasture legume species such as Trifolium subterraneum, T. repens and annual Medicago spp. used in the temperate pasture systems of southern Australia have high critical external requirements for phosphorus (P) (i.e. P required to achieve 90% of maximum yield). This work aimed to identify alternative pasture legume species that could be used in systems with lower P input. Shoot and root biomass of 12 species of pasture legume was measured in response to seven rates of P applied to the top 48 mm of soil in a pot experiment. Most species had maximum yields similar to T. subterraneum, but some required only one-third of the applied P to achieve this. The critical external P requirement of the species, ranked from lowest to highest, was as follows: Ornithopus compressus = O. sativus < Biserrula pelecinus < T. michelianum = T. vesiculosum = T. glanduliferum < T. hirtum = Medicago truncatula = T. purpureum = T. incarnatum < T. spumosum = T. subterraneum. An ability to maximise soil exploration through a combination of high root-length density, high specific root length and long root hairs (i.e. a large specific root-hair-cylinder volume) was associated with a low critical external P requirement. The results indicate that Ornithopus spp. could be used to achieve productive, low P-input pasture systems.

Additional keywords: arrowleaf clover, balansa clover, barrel medic, bladder clover, crimson clover, French serradella, gland clover, purple clover, rose clover, subterranean clover, yellow serradella.


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