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Increased mineral soil N availability contributes to post-drought yield outperformance of Lolium perenne

Schärer M.L., A. Lüscher and and A. Kahmen . 2022.


Reoccurring drought events severely restrict forage production. However, intensively managed grasslands have recently been reported to recover quickly after drought stress and to even outperform control yields. Despite several studies showing increased mineral N availability after drought, the contributions of the two N sources: (1) fertilizer-derived N accumulated during drought; and (2) increased availability of soil-derived mineral N, remain unclear. Thus, we examined the effect of a 2-month experimental summer drought and two fertilization levels during drought (non-fertilized and fertilized) on the recovery of Lolium perenne swards after rewetting. Even for non-fertilized swards, dry matter yield (DMY) and plant-available N of drought and rewetted (DRW) plots exceeded controls. Fertilization during drought increased the effects of DRW on DMY and on plant available N. Consequently, our study shows that formerly drought stressed swards surpass control yields by profiting from higher N availability, not only deriving N from accumulated fertilizer N but also from increased availability of soil-derived N due to changed soil processes.

Key Words

grassland, drought, yield outperformance, ryegrass, N availability, resilience