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A cost-effective management practice to decrease phosphorus loss from dairy farms

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 12:09 authored by Richard McDowell, Gerald CosgroveGerald Cosgrove, Tom Orchiston, Jane Chrystal
Phosphorus (P) loss from land can impair surface water quality. A paired-catchment study was conducted on a grazed dairy farm that tested the hypothesis that cultivating and sowing a low-P-requiring grass in near stream areas and high-P-requiring clover (Trifolium repens L.) elsewhere lost less P to water and was potentially more profitable than a mixed grass–clover pasture managed for the cover component. Two catchments were treated the same for 2 yr, after which 40% of the treatment catchment was cultivated around the stream, sown in ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and fertilized with 150 kg nitrogen (N) ha-1 yr-1 and 10 kg P ha-1 yr-1. White clover was established in the remainder of the catchment and received no N but 30 kg P ha-1 yr-1. The control catchment received 150 kg N ha-1 yr-1 and 30 kg P ha-1 yr-1. After the monocultures were installed, filterable reactive P and total P concentrations decreased by 44 and 26% respectively, while the better-quality forage suggested a possible improvement in profitability. We concluded that with some caveats (e.g., a 2% increase in modeled N loss), using grass–clover monocultures strategically across a dairy farm may decrease P loss to surface water and improve profitability compared with a mixed pasture.


Rights statement

Copyright © American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. 5585 Guilford Rd., Madison, WI 53711 USA. All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.


  • English

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The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.

Journal title

Journal of Environmental Quality


McDowell, R. W., Cosgrove, G. P., Orchiston, T., & Chrystal, J. (2014). A Cost-Effective Management Practice to Decrease Phosphorus Loss from Dairy Farms. Journal of Environmental Quality, 43(6), 2044-2052. doi: 10.2134/jeq2014.05.0214

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