Waste recovered by-products can increase growth of grass–clover mixtures in low fertility soils and alter botanical and mineral nutrient composition

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The effectiveness of four by-products (biogas digestate, pot ale, rockdust and wood ash) as fertilisers of a perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)–red clover (Trifolium pratense) mixture in terms of biomass production, botanical composition and macro- and micronutrient concentrations was tested in an outdoor pot trial. This was carried out over two growing seasons using two inherently low-fertility soils used for forage production. Macro- and micronutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Co, Cu, Mn, Mo and Zn) relevant for crops and livestock were determined in soils and plants. All the by-products increased overall biomass production and affected nutrient concentrations of the individual plant species to varying degrees. In addition the competitive balance between grass and clover was altered leading to different botanical composition in the different treatments and consequently differences in the nutrient concentrations of the species mixture. Changes were due to the nutrients applied in the by-products per se and/or to changes in the soil chemistry caused by the by-products. The results suggest a potential to enhance agricultural productivity through improved production and quality of forage on less fertile land by matching of by-products and soil properties.

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