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Main research question/goal
What is the potential for yield and forage quality of a grass/clover combination with low nitrogen input in comparison with a pure grass sward, fertilised with the maximum nitrogen level, as allowed by the Flemish Government? What is the value for agricultural use of tall fescue and Festulolium, potentially in combination with clover? These questions fit perfectly into the current  search of cattle farmers to produce more and better forage (on their farms)  with less nitrogen fertilisers by combining grass with N-fixating clover. Especially under cutting conditions (when cows are housed indoors during the whole year) it is useful to do research into the potential of grass species other than perennial ryegrass.

Research approach
We execute field experiments on sandy (in Geel) and sandy loam (in Merelbeke) soils. We sow perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and Festulolium in either pure stands or in combination, and fertilised with 300kg N/ha. We sow the same treatments in combination with red and white clover, and fertilised with 150 kg N/ha. We harvest 5 cuts per year. In each cut we measure yield, protein content, forage quality, grass:clover ratio and perennial ryegrass:tall fescue  ratio. Nitrate in the soil is measured at the end of the growing season to determine the effect of clover in the sward on this parameter.

Grassland is the most important forage crop for protein production in Flanders. The yield potential of grass in terms of dry matter and protein is not fully used because N-fertilisation is restricted by legislation of the Government of Flanders. Furthermore, chemical fertilisers are very expensive. Mixing grass and N-fixating clovers can, especially under cutting conditions, produce more forage with a higher protein content at a lower N fertiliser input. More and more dairy cows are housed the whole year round, and grassland is managed under cutting conditions. This offers opportunities for grass species other than perennial ryegrass to be used on cattle farms.
Effective start/end date1/02/1131/03/14

ID: 4156859