Interpretation of results from on-farm experiments: manure-nitrogen recovery on grassland as affected by manure quality and application technique. 1. An agronomic analysis

  • Jeroen C.J. Groot JCJG
  • Jan Douwe Van Der Ploeg JDVDP
  • Frank P.M. Verhoeven FPMV
  • Egbert A. Lantinga EAL
Keywords: dairy farming system, nutrient use efficiency, soil organic matter, stability, Monte Carlo simulation


In a 5-year field experiment, a comparison was made between the manure application practices of two adjacent dairy farms in the north of the Netherlands. Grassland management systems at Drogeham and Harkema contrasted in manure application technique (surface application versus shallow injection, respectively), quality of applied manure (slurry + MX: slurry with Euromestmix® clay mineral additive versus regular slurry), and some relevant site characteristics (high versus low soil organic matter content and soil moisture supply). Effects of manure types and application techniques, and treatment of the soil with a micro-organism supplement, were tested in a factorial experiment at the two sites, two blocks per site, one with and one without additional application of 157 kg N ha–1 year–1 inorganic fertilizer. Apparent N recovery was higher after shallow injection than after surface application. For plots receiving no additional inorganic fertilizer, this difference was largest for slurry + MX applied at site Harkema, since this slurry–site combination resulted in the highest observed average apparent N recovery following shallow injection (47%) and the lowest N recovery following surface application (20%). For plots receiving additional inorganic fertilizer N the contrasts between treatments were less pronounced. Year effects on N uptake and dry matter production could be related to cumulative temperature and precipitation surplus over the growing season. A simple comparison between the grassland management systems was carried out based on the response curves derived from the experiment. This demonstrated that the grassland system where slurry was applied by shallow injection is not necessarily the lowest in actual amount of N not accounted for (i.e., potentially lost). The efficiency of the Harkema system strongly depended on high N recovery, but showed high potential losses in some years and a high herbage crude protein content in other years, due to the low DM production capacity. On the other hand, the Drogeham system was tuned to high DM production and was characterized by higher system stability, as reflected by more stable relationships between DM production and N not accounted for and herbage crude protein content. These differences between the systems were probably to a large extent caused by differences in water balance and soil organic matter content.

Author Biographies

Jeroen C.J. Groot, JCJG
Biological Farming Systems Group Wageningen University Marijkeweg 22 NL-6709 PG Wageningen The Netherlands
Jan Douwe Van Der Ploeg, JDVDP
Rural Sociology Group Wageningen University Wageningen The Netherlands
Frank P.M. Verhoeven, FPMV
Rural Sociology Group Wageningen University Wageningen The Netherlands
Egbert A. Lantinga, EAL
Biological Farming Systems Group Wageningen University Marijkeweg 22 NL-6709 PG Wageningen The Netherlands