Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium Losses in a Grazing System with Different Stocking Rates in a Volcanic Soil

Marta Alfaro1*, Francisco Salazar1, Sergio Iraira1, Nolberto Teuber1, Dagoberto Villarroel1, and Luis Ramírez1

In Chile there is little information on nutrient losses in livestock systems. The experiment was carried out between 2004 and 2006. Two stocking rates (3.5 and 5.0 steers ha-1) were tested under rotational grazing with Black and White Friesian steers on a permanent pasture (67.5 kg N and 40 kg P ha-1 yr-1). To quantify surface runoff losses (N, P, K), three surface lysimeters (5 x 5 m) per treatment were established. N and K leaching losses were estimated with ceramic cups. Runoff and leachate samples were individually analyzed for available and total N, reactive (RP) and total P, and K. Dissolved organic N (DON) and organic P (OP) were estimated as the difference between total and available forms. The stocking rate did not increase total N, P and K losses (P > 0.05). Losses in surface runoff were < 0.5 kg N, < 0.05 kg P and < 0.6 kg K ha-1 yr-1, respectively, due to the low amount of runoff measured. Nitrogen leaching losses were high (11 up to 71 kg ha-1 yr-1) and K leaching losses were low (3 to 5 kg ha-1 yr-1). Nitrogen in runoff was mainly lost as DON (50%). Nitrogen leaching losses were mainly as nitrate (70%). Phosphorus was lost as RP (70%). Thus, stocking rates of 5.0 steers ha-1 are plausible, but fertilizer application should be avoided in rainfall periods during the year to reduce incidental nutrient losses.

Keywords: eutrofication, water quality, grazing, Andisol, beef production.
1 Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias, Centro Regional de Investigación Remehue, Casilla 24-O, Osorno, Chile. Email: malfaro@inia.cl *Corresponding author