Tor Lunnan

Research Scientist

(+47) 406 22 936
tor.lunnan@nibio.no

Place
Løken

Visiting address
Nyhagevegen 35, 2940 Heggenes

Abstract

Knowledge about the botanical composition of grassland for silage is important regarding composition of seed mixtures, control of weeds, choice of harvest times and feeding strategies. The botanical composition of 185 fields in the mountain regions of southern Norway was examined using the dryweight rank method. The survey shows that the youngest grasslands (age 1 - 3 years) were dominated by the sown species with Phleum pratense L. the species with the highest proportion in the sward. In 4 - 6 year old grasslands, the proportion of sown species was reduced with the exception of Poa pratensis L., and Elytrigia repens L. had the highest proportion of unsown species. The proportion of Festuca pratensis (Huds.) was reduced at the same rate as Phleum pratense L. In grasslands of greater age (> 6 years) Poa pratensis L. and Elytrigia repens L. had the highest occurrence. The content of herbs increased with age, and Ranunculus repens L. and Taraxacum officinale F.H. Wigg were the most frequent species. The average clover content was < 6% of DM yield. The impact of Elytrigia repens L. on forage yield and quality should be further examined due to the high occurrence. Poa pratensis L. or other long-lasting grass species should be included in seed mixtures for this region when the grassland is intended to last more than three years.

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Abstract

Docks (Rumex spp.) are a considerable problem in grassland production worldwide. We investigated how different cultural management techniques affected dock populations during grassland renewal: (I) renewal time, (II) companion crop, (III) false seedbed, (IV) taproot cutting (V), plough skimmer and (VI) ploughing depth. Three factorial split-split plot experiments were carried out in Norway in 2007–2008 (three locations), 2008–2009 (one location) and 2009 (one location). After grassland renewal, more dock plants emerged from seeds than from roots. Summer renewal resulted in more dock seed and root plants than spring renewal. Adding a spring barley companion crop to the grassland crop often reduced dock density and biomass. A false seedbed resulted in 71% fewer dock seed plants following summer renewal, but tended to increase the number of dock plants after spring renewal. In some instances, taproot cutting resulted in less dock biomass, but the effect was weak and inconsistent, and if ploughing was shallow (16 cm) or omitted, it instead increased dock root plant emergence. Fewer root plants emerged after deep ploughing (24 cm) compared to shallow ploughing, and a plough skimmer tended to reduce the number further. We conclude that a competitive companion crop can assist in controlling both dock seed and root plants, but it is more important that the renewal time is favourable to the main crop. Taproot cutting in conjunction with ploughing is not an effective way to reduce dock root plants, but ploughing is more effective if it is deep and a skimmer is used.

Abstract

Increasing species diversity often promotes ecosystem functions in grasslands, but sward diversity may be reduced over time through competitive interactions among species. We investigated the development of species’ relative abundances in intensively managed agricultural grassland mixtures over three years to identify the drivers of diversity change. A continental-scale field experiment was conducted at 31 sites using 11 different four-species mixtures each sown at two seed abundances. The four species consisted of two grasses and two legumes, of which one was fast establishing and the other temporally persistent. We modelled the dynamics of the four-species mixtures over the three-year period. The relative abundances shifted substantially over time; in particular, the relative abundance of legumes declined over time but stayed above 15% in year three at many sites. We found that species’ dynamics were primarily driven by differences in the relative growth rates of competing species and secondarily by density dependence and climate. Alongside this, positive diversity effects in yield were found in all years at many sites.

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Abstract

Weed suppression was investigated in a field experiment across 31 international sites. The study included 15 plant communities at each site, based on two grasses and two legumes, each sown in monoculture and 11 four-species mixtures varying in the relative proportions of the four species. At each site, one grass and one legume species was selected as fast establishing and the other two species were selected for persistence. Average weed biomass in mixtures over the whole experiment was 52% less (95% confidence interval, 30 to 75%) than in the most suppressive monoculture (transgressive suppression). Transgressive suppression of weed biomass persisted over each year for each mixture. Weed biomass was consistently low and relatively similar across all mixtures and years. Average sown species biomass was greater in all mixtures than in any monoculture. The suppressive effect of sown forage species on weeds in mixtures was achieved without any herbicide use. At each site, weed biomass for almost every mixture was lower than the average across the four monocultures. The average proportion of weed biomass in mixtures was less than in the most suppressive monoculture in two thirds of sites. Mixtures outyielded monocultures, and mixture yield comprised far lower weed biomass.

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Abstract

1. Increased species diversity promotes ecosystem function; however, the dynamics of multi-speciesgrassland systems over time and their role in sustaining higher yields generated by increased diver-sity are still poorly understood. We investigated the development of species’ relative abundances ingrassland mixtures over 3 years to identify drivers of diversity change and their links to yield diver-sity effects.2. A continental-scale field experiment was conducted at 31 sites using 11 different four-speci esmixtures each sown at two seed abundances. The four species consisted of two grasses and two legumes, of which one was fast establishing and the other temporally persistent. We modelledthe dynamics of the four-species mixtures, and tested associations with diversity effects on yield.3. We found that species’ dynamics were primarily driven by differences in the relative growth rates(RGRs) of competing species, and secondarily by density dependence and climate. The temporallypersistent grass species typically had the highest RGRs and hence became dominant over time. Den-sity dependence sometimes induced stabilising processes on the dominant species and inhibitedshifts to monoculture. Legumes persisted at most sites at low or medium abundances and persistencewas improved at sites with higher annual minimum temperature.4. Significant diver sity effects were present at the majority of sites in all years and the strength ofdiversity effects was improved with higher legume abundance in the previous year. Observed diver-sity effects, when legumes had declined, may be due to (i) important effects of legumes even at lowabundance, (ii) interaction between the two grass species or (iii) a store of N because of previouspresence of legumes.5. Synthesis. Alongside major compositional changes driven by RGR differences , diversity effectswere observed at most sites, albeit at reduced strength as legumes declined. This evidence stronglysupports the sowing of multi-species mixtures that include legumes over the long-standing practiceof sowing grass monocultures. Careful and strategic selection of the identity of the species used inmixtures is suggested to facilitate the maintenance of species diversity and especially persistence oflegumes over tim e, and to preser ve the strength of yield increases associated with diversity.

Abstract

Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) is normally a short-lived perennial with no vegetative propagation and the number of plants in the field declines rapidly. In organic farming, the amount of clover in the field is decisive for the N2 fixation and yield, the protein content and quality of the forage produced. In Nordland County (66.27°N), there is a farm with some red clover plants in more than 15 years old grassland. In the presented study we examined grassland botanical content and attempted to recognise age of red clover plants. Our hypotheses was 1) that extensive grassland management promotes self-seeding of red clover 2) self-seeding maintaining a desired content of red clover over time. In addition, we tested two harvesting regimes of the first cut for seed maturation and seed quality at two locations in Norway. Red clover plants in old swards showed very high age and a branched root system. Only very few seedlings were found in old sward suggesting that self-seeding was insignificant. Experiments with leaving the grassland after the first cut for seed production of clover failed due to poor seed maturation. Surface seeding of red clover in pure grass plots gave good results, especially with early spring seeding.

Abstract

Herbage yield responses to K fertilizer application are variable in Norwegian grassland. Excessive K application may increase the risk of grass tetany (hypomagnesaemia) and milk fever (hypocalcaemia). We analysed a series of K fertilizer experiments on grassland with respect to their herbage yields and mineral composition. Our results show the importance of native soil K reserves when considering the need for K application. Soils with a high content of acid-soluble K showed no response to K fertilizer application. The critical K content in grass with respect to yield was estimated to be 17.7 g K/kg DM in the first cut and 20.3 kg K/DM in the second cut, while the critical K/N relationship was found to be 0.83 when a maximum yield reduction of 2.5% was used as a criterion. In these trials, soils with a high content of acid-soluble K had the greatest risk of grass tetany and the highest values of cation–anion balance. Application of potassium chloride had little effect on the cation–anion balance, and thereby the risk of milking fever, because there was a corresponding uptake of K and Cl ions.

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Abstract

1. Grassland diversity can support sustainable intensification of grassland production through increased yields, reduced inputs and limited weed invasion. We report the effects of diversity on weed suppression from 3 years of a 31-site continental-scale field experiment. 2. At each site, 15 grassland communities comprising four monocultures and 11 four-species mixtures based on a wide range of species' proportions were sown at two densities and managed by cutting. Forage species were selected according to two crossed functional traits, “method of nitrogen acquisition” and “pattern of temporal development”. 3. Across sites, years and sown densities, annual weed biomass in mixtures and monocultures was 0.5 and 2.0 t DM ha−1 (7% and 33% of total biomass respectively). Over 95% of mixtures had weed biomass lower than the average of monocultures, and in two-thirds of cases, lower than in the most suppressive monoculture (transgressive suppression). Suppression was significantly transgressive for 58% of site-years. Transgressive suppression by mixtures was maintained across years, independent of site productivity. 4. Based on models, average weed biomass in mixture over the whole experiment was 52% less (95% confidence interval: 30%–75%) than in the most suppressive monoculture. Transgressive suppression of weed biomass was significant at each year across all mixtures and for each mixture. 5. Weed biomass was consistently low across all mixtures and years and was in some cases significantly but not largely different from that in the equiproportional mixture. The average variability (standard deviation) of annual weed biomass within a site was much lower for mixtures (0.42) than for monocultures (1.77). 6. Synthesis and applications. Weed invasion can be diminished through a combination of forage species selected for complementarity and persistence traits in systems designed to reduce reliance on fertiliser nitrogen. In this study, effects of diversity on weed suppression were consistently strong across mixtures varying widely in species' proportions and over time. The level of weed biomass did not vary greatly across mixtures varying widely in proportions of sown species. These diversity benefits in intensively managed grasslands are relevant for the sustainable intensification of agriculture and, importantly, are achievable through practical farm-scale actions.

Abstract

A future wetter climate in Northern Europe may increase soil compaction from traffic of heavy machinery. This study investigated the impact of tractor traffic on grassland yield, soil physical properties and penetration resistance in three experimental field trials in Norway; on medium sand at Tjøtta, Nordland, on silty medium sand at Fureneset, Sogn og Fjordane and on silt at Løken, Oppland. The experiments were conducted in a split-plot design with three levels of two wheel-by-wheel passes with tractor traffic after each cut: no traffic, light tractor or heavy tractor on large plots, and three different seed mixtures on small plots. The yield reduction by tractor traffic was 26% at Løken, 4% at Fureneset and 1% at Tjøtta. There was a positive correlation between soil moisture content and yield reduction by traffic. Tractor traffic reduced pore volume and air capacity and increased bulk density, compaction degree and penetration resistance with the largest effect at Løken and the smallest at Tjøtta. There were no statistically significant differences in yield or soil physical properties between light and heavy tractor. The study shows that soil texture and soil moisture content are major factors explaining traffic effects on soil physical properties and grassland yield.

Abstract

Wavy hair-grass (Avenella flexuosa (L.) Drejer; Deschampsia flexuosa (L.) Trin.) is the main pasture species in blueberry mountain birch forest and dwarf birch – blueberry moorland, which cover large parts of outfield pastures in the mountainous region of Southern Norway. Blueberry mountain birch forest with continuous mats of A. flexuosa was fenced in and harvested at different times in the summers of 2014 and 2015. Regrowth was also recorded. The grass from sample plots was dried after harvest, and analyzed for feed quality using NIRS. There were no statistically significant differences in total net energy yield between different harvesting regimes. Grass growth was highest in early summer, and harvesting on 2 July gave about 60% of the seasonal yield. Grass yield in undisturbed population increased until the last harvest (early September). Regrowth after harvest was small at the end of the season, but the growth here corresponded with the growth in undisturbed population. A. flexuosa remained at vegetative stage during the season. The energy value was highest at harvest first in July, and relatively constant at later harvests. The protein concentration declined towards the end of the season.

Abstract

A meta-analysis based on experiments in organically cultivated grasslands in Norway was conducted to quantify the effects of management factors on herbage yield and feed quality. A dataset was collected that included 496 treatment means from experiments in five studies carried out at eight locations with the latitude range of 58.8 to 69.6 N between 1993 and 2010. We tested the effect of harvesting system (two vs. Three cuts annually), plant developmental stage at the first cut, growth period (temperature sum) and the herbage clover proportion. Plant maturity at the first cut and herbage clover proportion explained to a large extent herbage yield and quality of the first cut and annual yield. The timing of the first cut influenced also the yield and herbage quality of the second cut. The analysis confirmed the importance of legumes performance for herbage yield and quality from grasslands in organic production. Estimated annual herbage DM yield harvested at standardized plant development stage and at average clover proportion was 9%higher in the two—compared to the three-cut system. The crude protein concentration and in vitro dry matter digestibility was 17 and 3 % higher and the NDF concentration 7 % lower in the annual herbage from the three-cut than from the twocut system, respectively. The empirical equations developed in this study may be applied to explore different options for grassland management as basis for ration and production planning and in scenario analysis of economic performance of individual and model farms. The equations do also reveal in numeric terms the tradeoffs in management practice between high yields, yield digestibility, NDF and crude protein content in organic forage production relying on red clover N2 fixation as the engine in the system.

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Abstract

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Abstract

Docks are among the most important perennial weeds in grasslands throughout the world and the need for more effective control methods is especially crucial in organic forage production. To find more effective control methods, field trials over 2 years at 4 Norwegian locations, were carried out mainly as a full-factorial design, including factors expected to reduce docks significantly. (i) Date of grassland establishment: may be important for preventing/decreasing the flush of seedlings from seeds as well as shoots from root fragments.(ii) False seedbed preparation: to decrease soil seed bank. (iii) Use of nurse crop (cover crop) to increase competitiveness against Rumex seedlings. (iv) Cutting the taproot, using a rotary tiller before ploughing, or the "dock-plough" (a skimmer modified to cut roots in the entire furrow width at ca 7 cm depth): as new shoots mostly come from the neck and the upper 5 cm of the taproot. (v) Ploughing depth and skimming: to decrease shoots from root fragments. Weed development was assessed as the number of emerging Rumex seedlings and plants sprouting from root fragments. Results indicated that frequently more plants emerged from seeds than from root fragments. Neither renewing the grassland in summer, nor the use of the rotary tiller or the "dock plough" reduced the number of docks in the renewed grasslands. The use of the false seedbed and nurse crop, at some locations and years, reduced the number of docks in the renewed grasslands. Deep ploughing (24cm) reduced the number of Rumex plants from roots by 65% percent compared to shallow ploughing (16cm). Furthermore, the use of a skimmer reduced the number of docks sprouting from roots by 28%. Among the investigated factors, competitiveness, false seedbed and ploughing depth, as well as ploughing quality, seems to be the most promising factors for reducing the number of docks in renewed grassland.

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Abstract

Background and aims: White clover (Trifolium repens) is an important component of sustainable livestock systems around the world. Its exploitation for agriculture in the northern, marginal areas, is, however, currently limited by the lack of cultivars that combine persistence and high production potential. The aims are to investigate whether it is feasible to create breeding material of white clover for these areas by combining winter hardiness of northerly populations with good yielding ability of more southerly cultivars. Methods: A total of 166 crosses of 14 different parental combinations between winter-hardy, low-yielding populations of northern origin and high-yielding commercial cultivars of more southerly origin were tested under field conditions in Iceland and Norway and the parental combinations were compared in Norway. Spaced plants were transplanted into a smooth meadow grass (Poa pratensis) sward. Dry matter yield was estimated for 2 years after planting in Norway and morphological characters associated with yielding capacity were measured at both sites. Key results: The results showed that southerly cultivars had larger leaves and higher yielding potential than northern types but suffered more winter damage. Significant variation was found between full-sib families within the different parental combinations for all morphological characteristics measured in all three trials. However, it was difficult to detect any consistens morphological patterns between progeny groups across trial sites. No significant correlations were found between leaflet area and survival. Conclusions: The present study has confirmed that it should be possible to simultaneously select for good winter survival and larger leaves and, hence, higher yielding ability under marginal conditions.