Nitrate leaching losses from intensively managed monoculture grass and grass–clover pastures were measured during 1994–96 at a long-term experimental farm in south-west Scotland. Field-size lysimeter plots were established in 1993 on the existing pastures on a silty clay loam non-calcareous gley. No fertilizer-N was applied to the grass–clover, while the monoculture grass was fertilized with c. 240 kg N ha−1 year−1, but both swards received 2–3 cattle slurry applications annually (120–390 kg total N ha−1 year−1). The pastures supported 2–3 cuts for silage conservation, and were grazed by dairy cattle and stocked with sheep during the winter months.
Initially, leachate nitrate concentrations from the fertilized grass were considerably larger than those from the clover-based pasture, but became similar with time. The annual nitrate leaching losses from the grass–clover (24–38 kg NO3-N ha−1) were less than that from the monoculture grass (30–45 kg NO3-N ha−1), but the differences were not large considering the additional fertilizer-N applied to the latter treatment. Results also suggested that greater leaching losses occur during a warmer, drier year, compared to a cooler, wetter year, regardless of the source of N-input.
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