Home field advantage of cattle manure decomposition affects the apparent nitrogen recovery in production grasslands

Rashid, M.I.; Goede, R.G.M. de; Brussaard, L.; Lantinga, E.A.


Based on evidence from forest ecosystems that litter decomposition is highest in its home habitat, the so-called home field advantage (HFA), we tested whether HFA also occurs in production grasslands, to which solid cattle manure (SCM) was applied. Two dairy farms were selected which differed in type of home-produced SCM (stacked or composted) and soil type (sand or peat). Disappearance patterns of manure dry matter (DM) and nitrogen (N) were monitored from litterbags (4 mm mesh size) during the grass growing season. At the same time, apparent herbage N recovery (ANR) of SCM, applied at two rates (200 and 400 kg N ha-1 yr-1), was measured. On average, manure DM and N disappearances on the home farms were 20 and 14% greater, respectively, than on away farms. Differences in ANR were also very pronounced (on average 14 and 53% higher at home than away for the two respective application rates). The two SCM types were also studied on two neighbouring dairy farms (one on sand and one on peat soil) where no SCM had been applied for many years. Here, manure DM and N disappearances from the litterbags were much lower (P <0.01). This experiment provides strong evidence for a home field advantage in production grasslands differing in fertilization history, showing that site-specific manure management affects the soil–plant interactions regulating plant N-availability. These findings have to be taken into account when changing fertilization regimes in production grasslands. This is the first report to quantify a HFA from an agricultural ecosystem. HFA values we report here have not been established in any ecosystem thus far.