Consistent ozone-induced decreases in pasture forage quality across several grassland types and consequences for UK lamb production

Hayes, Felicity; Mills, Gina; Jones, Laurence; Abbott, John; Ashmore, Mike; Barnes, Jeremy; Cape, J. Neil; Coyle, Mhairi; Peacock, Simon; Rintoul, Naomi; Toet, Sylvia; Wedlich, Kerstin; Wyness, Kirsten. 2016 Consistent ozone-induced decreases in pasture forage quality across several grassland types and consequences for UK lamb production. Science of the Total Environment, 543 (A). 336-346.

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In this study we have demonstrated that rising background ozone has the potential to reduce grassland forage quality and explored the implications for livestock production. We analysed pasture samples from seven ozone exposure experiments comprising mesotrophic, calcareous, haymeadow and sanddune unimproved grasslands conducted in open-top chambers, solardomes and a field release system. Across all grassland types, there were significant increases in acid detergent fibre, crude fibre and lignin content with increasing ozone concentration, resulting in decreased pasture quality in terms of the metabolisable energy content of the vegetation. We derived a dose-response function for metabolisable energy of the grassland with ozone concentration, applicable to a range of grassland types, and used this to predict effects on pasture quality of UK vegetation at 1km resolution using modelled ozone data for 2007 and for predicted higher average ozone concentrations in 2020. This showed a potential total reduction in lamb production in the UK of approximately 4% in 2020 compared to 2007. The largest impacts were in geographical areas of modest ozone increases between the two years, but where large numbers of lambs were present. For an individual farmer working to a very small cost margin this could represent a large reduction in profit, both in regions where the impacts per lamb and those where the impacts per km2 of grazing land are largest. In the short term farmers could adapt their lamb management in response to changed forage quality by additional supplementary feed of high metabolisable energy content. Nationally this increase in annual additional feed in 2020 compared to 2007 would be 2,166 tonnes (an increase of 0.7%). Of added concern are the longer-term consequences of continual deterioration of pasture quality and the implications for changes in farming practices to compensate for potential reductions in livestock production capacity.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Keywords: grazing, air pollution, pasture quality, livestock production, ozone, metabolisable energy, sheep, lambs
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 15 Feb 2016 10:55 +0 (UTC)

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