The Journal of Agricultural Science

Research Article

The effect of ground water-level upon productivity and composition of fenland grass

A. Edena1, G. Aldermana1, C. J. L. Bakera1, H. H. Nicholsona2 and D. H. Firtha2

a1 Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, National Agricultural Advisory Service, Anstey Hall, Trumpington, Cambridge

a2 School of Agriculture, University of Cambridge

1. Studies were made of the effects of varying ground water-levels upon the productivity and composition of Italian Ryegrass grown on a calcareous light peat in the Fenland area. Six cuts were taken throughout the season at 3 to 4-weekly intervals.

2. High ground water-level (approximately 15in. below ground surface) had a very deleterious effect on the total yield of fresh grass and of dry matter. Yields were little more than half of those obtained at medium and low water-levels (24 and 38 in. below ground surface, respectively).

3. High water-level apparently interfered with nitrogen metabolism in the soil, and considerably lower percentages of crude protein were found in the grass growing on the high water-level plots than at the other levels. On the other hand, the percentage of crude fibre remained fairly constant for all levels of ground water.

4. High water-level also had a depressing effect on the percentage of potassium, magnesium and chlorine in the grass. It had no obvious effect upon the calcium and phosphorus levels in the plants. The silica content of the grass rose steadily as the season advanced, this being most marked on the high water-level plots.

5. Physical examination of typical plants showed the effect of the various ground water-levels upon the development of the root systems, with consequent effect upon the chemical composition of the grass.

6. The composition of hay and aftermath showed similar changes to those reported for the green herbage.

7. The findings are discussed in relation to grassdrying policies in Fenland areas.

(Received December 16 1950)

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