Fertilization using manure minimizes the trade-offs between biodiversity and forage production in agri-environment scheme grasslands

Villa-Galaviz, Edith; Smart, Simon M. ORCID:; Ward, Susan E.; Fraser, Mariecia D.; Memmott, Jane. 2023 Fertilization using manure minimizes the trade-offs between biodiversity and forage production in agri-environment scheme grasslands. PLoS ONE, 18 (10), e0290843.

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A common practice used to restore and maintain biodiversity in grasslands is to stop or decrease the use of fertilizers as they are a major cause of biodiversity loss. This practice is problematic for farmers who need fertilizers to increase forage and meet the nutritional needs of livestock. Evidence is needed that helps identify optimal fertilizer regimes that could benefit biodiversity and livestock production simultaneously over the long-term. Here, we evaluated the impact of different fertilizer regimes on indicators related to both biodiversity (plant, pollinator, leaf miners and parasitoid Shannon-Weiner diversity, bumblebee abundance, nectar productivity and forb species richness), and forage production (ash, crude protein, ruminant metabolizable energy and dry matter). To this end, we used data from a grassland restoration experiment managed under four nutrient inputs schemes for 27 years: farmyard manure (FYM; 72 kg N ha-1 yr-1), artificial nitrogen-phosphorus and potassium (NPK; 25 kg N ha-1 yr-1), FYM + NPK (97 kg N ha-1 yr-1) and no-fertilizer. Results showed strong trade-offs between biodiversity and forage production under all treatments even in applications lower than the critical load in the EU. Overall, farmyard manure was the fertilizer that optimized production and biodiversity while 97 kg N ha-1 yr-1 of fertilizer addition (FYM+NPK) had the most negative impact on biodiversity. Finally, forage from places where no fertilizer has been added for 27 years did not meet the nutritional requirements of cattle, but it did for sheep. Rethinking typical approaches of nutrient addition could lead to land management solutions suitable for biological conservation and agriculture.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
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Date made live: 09 Nov 2023 15:37 +0 (UTC)

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