Fertilization Effects on the Chemical Composition and In vitro Organic Matter Digestibility of Semi-natural Meadows as Predicted by NIR Spectrometry

Management of livestock grazing in highly-productive mountain meadows is an important aspect for the economic viability and the environmental impact of a grassland-based farm. The main aim of this study was to build near infrared models to determine the chemical composition and in vitro organic matter digestibility of Romanian meadow forages. The treatments were organic and mineral fertilizer combinations, and forage samples were obtained from three fertilization experiments conducted in the Apuseni Mountains; these samples were analysed using classical and NIR methods. The samples were scanned in the NIR wavelength band. The CRA-W Gembloux ‘local’ calibration models were validated with Romanian meadow forages and then used in order to predict the forage quality of samples. A second objective of the study was to determine the effects of fertilization on forage quality. The results showed a decrease in crude protein content from the NPK treatment (150:75:75), which can be explained by a reduction of Fabaceae plants with this treatment from 17.25% of the populations in the control (semi-natural meadow not fertilized) to 6.25% in the fertilized plots. The decrease in protein content and in vitro organic matter digestibility was related to a reduced Fabaceae presence. Our recommendation is to use mineral fertilization with NPK doses less than 100:50:50 to improve meadow productivity; meanwhile organic fertilization can also be used to complement and maintain biodiversity and forage quality.

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