In Australia, recycling of paunch waste to farmland has been suggested as a cost-effective and practicable environmental option, but little is known about its agronomic value. Experimental work was undertaken to assess potential risks due to weed seed contamination, determine the agronomic response of ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) to soil incorporation of paunch, and investigate short-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Five types of paunch with compost ages between 2 and 16 weeks were compared with urea (46% N) and applied at field equivalent rates of 0 (control), 150, and 300 kg ha-1 N. The risk of weed contamination from paunch applied to soil appeared to be negligible; however, techniques that enable seed viability to be determined may be required to fully discard such risk. Average dry matter yield with paunch was ~30% higher than untreated grass, but ~35% lower than with urea. Dry matter yield in paunch-treated grass was between 2500 and 3250 kg ha-1 over five cuts conducted at 25-day intervals. Paunch N responses were between 1.12 and 3.25 kg DM kg-1 N depending on compost age, but lower than with urea N (~6.5 kg DM kg-1 N). Nitrogen use efficiency of paunch ranged between 3% and 20%, compared to about 35% with urea. Nitrogen fertilizer replacement value (NFRV) of paunch was highest in the 6-week-old compost (~60%) and ranged between 20% and 55% across all other organic materials. Short-term N2O emissions were similar (p > 0.05) with both mineral and organic amendments; however, CH4 emissions were higher (p < 0.05) from paunch compared with urea-treated soil. Overall, there appears to be potential for paunchderived products to be used as a source of C and nutrients in crop production. Industry quality specifications for compost are available, but they need to be expanded to incorporate guidelines relevant to paunch. There is a requirement for the value proposition to industry to be determined, including reduced cost of paunch disposal via gate fees.
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