Effects of timing of nitrogen fertilizer application on responses by tropical grasses
Timing of nitrogen (N) fertilizer application can influence grass regrowth, so it is important to identify how tropical grasses respond to delays in applying fertilizer after defoliation. Our objective was to identify the effects of timing of N fertilizer application after harvest on the productive, morphogenic and structural characteristics of 3 tropical grasses: ‘Xaraés’ (Urochloa brizantha [Hochst. ex A. Rich.] Stapf cv. Xaraés), ‘Marandu’ (Urochloa brizantha [Hochst. ex A. Rich.] Stapf cv. Marandu) and ‘Tanzânia’ (Megathyrsus maximus [Jacq.] cv. Tanzânia). The experiments were performed in a greenhouse, in a completely randomized design, with 5 delays in applying N after harvesting (0, 3, 6, 9 and 12 days). Delaying fertilizer application did not affect the forage mass of Xaraés and Marandu palisade grass (7.4 and 7.8 g/pot, respectively). There was a linear decrease in number of leaves per tiller and leaf appearance rate, but tiller population density and phyllochron increased linearly as fertilizer application was delayed. Grass forage mass (12.2‒10.6 g/pot), number of leaves per tiller (3.1‒2.6 leaves/tiller) and forage accumulation rate (0.47 to 0.41 g DM/d) of Tanzânia guinea decreased linearly as N application was delayed, but tiller population density was unaffected (25 tillers/pot). Based on our results, N fertilizer should be applied to Tanzânia guinea grass pastures as soon as possible after harvest and certainly before 3 days, while there is not the same urgency with Xaraés and Marandu where fertilization could be delayed up to 12 days without significant detriment. These suggestions need to be tested in a field study before being recommended widely.