The diagnosis and recommendation integrated system (DRIS) for diagnosing the nutrient status of grassland swards: I. Model establishment
- ISSN: 0032079X
- DOI: 10.1007/s11104-008-9763-5
Herbage analysis offers a definitive means of determining the N, P, K and S status of perennial ryegrass swards. Unfortunately, the results of such analyses can be difficult to interpret, simply because the minimum or 'critical' concentration of a nutrient in plant tissue for optimum growth, varies both with crop age and with changes in the concentrations of other nutrients. The Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS) could help to improve the reliability of such interpretations. Diagnoses made using DRIS are based on relative rather than on absolute concentrations of nutrients in plant tissue, and as such should be comparatively independent of crop age. The aim of this study was to establish and test DRIS methodology for high-yielding perennial ryegrass swards. Because of prohibitive costs, setting up a whole new series of field experiments to evaluate DRIS model parameters for perennial ryegrass was out of the question. Instead, the diagnostic norms and associated coefficients of variation for the model were evaluated using data from a single (large) multi-factorial glasshouse experiment. Of the nutrient ratios selected to form the diagnostic norms, K/N and S/N had the dearest physiological rationale, whereas those involving Ca and Mg in combination with N, P, K and S appeared to have little physiological basis. It was reasoned, though, that because Ca and Mg uptake by plants are largely passive processes (ultimately governed by plant growth), the DRIS indices for these nutrients, together reflected the degree to which growth may be limited by non-nutritional (environmental) factors relative to nutritional ones. Both indices were combined to form a single reference (R-i) index. Without such an internal reference, plant growth could be limited by multiple nutrient deficiencies, and yet N, P, K and S indices might all be close to, or equal to zero (i.e. the optimum), simply because the absolute concentrations of each nutrient (while low) had been in the correct state of balance. Moreover, by effectively using Ca and Mg as internal reference parameters in DRIS, 'nutrient concentrations' which previously formed the basis of the critical value approach, were essentially incorporated into the DRIS model, thus combining the strengths of the two diagnostic approaches; the only difference being that Ca and Mg, and not dry matter, were the internal references against which the levels of the major nutrients were compared.