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Research article2019Peer reviewed

Carbon capture efficiency, yield, nutrient uptake and trafficability of different grass species on a cultivated peat soil

Berglund, Orjan; Berglund, Kerstin; Jordan, Sabine; Norberg, Lisbet


Loss of organic matter from cultivated peat soils is a threat to farmers, due to the surface subsidence associated with organic matter loss, and to the atmosphere, due to CO2 and N2O emissions from the soil. In a three-year field experiment (2015-2017) on a drained, cultivated fen peat in southern Sweden, we tested whether reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea L.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) perform better on peat soils than the commonly grown timothy grass (Phleurn pratense L.), without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. In the experiment, we compared yield, nutrient uptake, penetration resistance and loss of organic matter measured as greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O and CH4). Yield of timothy was significantly lower than that of reed canary grass and tall fescue in 2016, and lower than that of reed canary grass in 2017. Yield level increased over time, with total dry matter yield in 2017 of 11.7 Mg ha(-1) yr(-1) for timothy, 13.5 Mg ha(-1) yr(-1) for tall fescue and 14.3 Mg ha(-1) yr(-1) for reed canary grass. Total removal of all macronutrients in 2016 was higher in reed canary grass and tall fescue than in timothy. For nitrogen (N), reed canary grass removed a total of 173 kg N ha(-1) yr(-1), tall fescue 169 kg ha(-1) yr(-1) and timothy 121 kg ha(-1) yr(-1), while the fertilisation rate was only 50 kg N ha(-1). There were no differences in trafficability, measured as penetration resistance. Measurements of greenhouse gas emissions in the snow-free season in 2016 and 2017 using manual dark chambers (CO2, N2O and CH4) and in 2016 automatic dark chambers (CO2) revealed only small differences in CO2 emissions between the treatments. The N2O emissions were also low and CH4 emissions were very low and in general negative. The estimated carbon capture efficiency (ratio of C in aboveground biomass plus roots to emitted CO2-C measured by the automatic chambers) for the growing season (May-October) in 2016 was lowest for timothy (0.61) and higher for reed canary grass and tall fescue (0.70 and 0.70, respectively). Reed canary grass and tall fescue are thus promising alternatives to timothy on peat soils regarding yield, nutrient removal and carbon capture efficiency.


Greenhouse gases; Nutrient removal; Peat soils; Reed canary grass; Tall fescue; Timothy

Published in

2019, Volume: 173, pages: 175-182