Pasture Management Strategies for Sequestering Soil Carbon - Final Report

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Pasturelands account for 51 of the 212 Mha of privately held grazing land in the USA. Tall fescue is the most important cool-season perennial forage for many beef cattle producers in the humid region of the USA. A fungal endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum, infects the majority of tall fescue stands with a mutualistic association. Ergot alkaloids produced by the endophyte have negative impacts on cattle performance. However, there are indications that endophyte infection of tall fescue is a necessary component of productive and persistent pasture ecology. The objectives of this research were to characterize and quantify changes in soil organic carbon ... continued below

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Franzluebbers, Alan J. March 15, 2006.

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Pasturelands account for 51 of the 212 Mha of privately held grazing land in the USA. Tall fescue is the most important cool-season perennial forage for many beef cattle producers in the humid region of the USA. A fungal endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum, infects the majority of tall fescue stands with a mutualistic association. Ergot alkaloids produced by the endophyte have negative impacts on cattle performance. However, there are indications that endophyte infection of tall fescue is a necessary component of productive and persistent pasture ecology. The objectives of this research were to characterize and quantify changes in soil organic carbon and associated soil properties under tall fescue pastures with and without endophyte infection of grass. Pastures with high endophyte infection had greater concentration of soil organic carbon, but lower concentration of biologically active soil carbon than pastures with low endophyte infection. A controlled experiment suggested that endophyte-infected leaf tissue may directly inhibit the activity of soil microorganisms. Carbon forms of soil organic matter were negatively affected and nitrogen forms were positively affected by endophyte addition to soil. The chemical compounds in endophyte-infected tall fescue (ergot alkaloids) that are responsible for animal health disorders were found in soil, suggesting that these chemicals might be persistent in the environment. Future research is needed to determine whether ergot alkaloids or some other chemicals are responsible for increases in soil organic matter. Scientists will be able to use this information to better understand the ecological impacts of animals grazing tall fescue, and possibly to identify and cultivate other similar associations for improving soil organic matter storage. Another experiment suggested that both dry matter production and soil microbial activity could be affected by the endophyte. Sampling of the cumulative effects of 20 years of tall fescue management indicated that soil organic carbon and nitrogen storage were greater with than without endophyte only under high soil fertility. This extra carbon and nitrogen in soil due to the presence of the endophyte was further found to be located in intermediately sized soil aggregates, which are important for reducing water runoff and improving water quality. These results suggest that well-fertilized tall fescue pastures with a high percentage of plants infected with the endophyte have the potential to help offset the rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This research has also shown positive ecological implications of tall fescue-endophyte association.

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  • Report No.: DOE/ER/63021-10
  • Grant Number: AI02-00ER63021
  • DOI: 10.2172/877389 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 877389
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc877211

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  • March 15, 2006

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  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Nov. 4, 2016, 4:36 p.m.

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Franzluebbers, Alan J. Pasture Management Strategies for Sequestering Soil Carbon - Final Report, report, March 15, 2006; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc877211/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.