Date of this Version
Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 42 (2011), pp. 1958–1971; doi: 10.1080/00103624.2011.591470
Bermuda grass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] is a major forage for grazing and hay production in the southern United States. The objectives of this study were to determine effects of nitrogen (N) fertilization rate (0, 112, 224, 336, and 448 kg ha−1), split spring and summer applications of N at the 224 and 448 kg ha−1 rates, and harvest periods (spring and summer) on forage yield, crude protein (CP), acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), total digestible nutrients (TDN), and concentrations of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca) in Midland Bermuda grass. Data were collected from 2002 to 2008 as part of an ongoing, long-term soil fertility experiment in southern Oklahoma. Repeated measures analysis of these long-term data showed that forage yield responses to N rate varied with year and harvest time with up to 2.5-fold yield differences among years. Nitrogen fertilization increased CP, TDN, and macronutrient P and Mg and decreased ADF and NDF. Crude protein was increased by ≥50%, and ADF and NDF dropped by up to 25% with the greatest N rate. In general, split N applications did not affect forage yield but produced low-quality forage compared to single N application in spring. Split application of 448 kg N ha−1 gave forage with CP, TDN, ADF, and NDF similar to the Bermuda grass receiving 336 or 448 kg N ha−1 as a single application. Spring forage had better forage quality than summer harvests. While N fertilization increased forage Mg and P concentrations by more than 50% during both spring and summer, it had no effect or slight increased K and Ca concentrations. In the southern Great Plains, despite the weather-dependent variability in forage yield of Bermuda grass, N application increase forage quality.