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High-resolution assessment of French grassland dry matter and nitrogen yields

Abstract : Grasslands offer many environmental and economic advantages that put them at the heart of future sustainable ruminant production systems. This study aimed to quantify and map the dry matter yield (DMY) and nitrogen yield (NY) of French grasslands resulting from cutting and grazing practices, based on the existing diversity of grassland vegetation, management, soil and climate conditions, using a research version of the STICS crop model called PâturSTICS. This model simulates daily dry matter (DM), nitrogen (N) and water fluxes involved in the functioning of grasslands and crops in response to management and environmental conditions. It was improved to represent deposition of animal waste on grassland soils during grazing and to simulate DM production and N content of grasses and legumes more accurately. Simulations were performed for locations across France on a highresolution grid composed of pedoclimatic units (PCU) obtained by combining the spatial resolutions of climate and soil. The main grassland types and associated management types were determined for each PCU and then simulated over 30 years (1984-2013). Using the simulated values, predictive metamodels of annual grassland DMY and NY were developed from easily accessible explanatory variables using a random forest approach. Annual model predictions were aggregated and averaged at the PCU scale, then compared to regional observations. Predicted DMY agreed with available observations, except in semi-mountainous and mountainous regions, where PâturSTICS tended to overpredict DMY, probably because it ignores effects of snow, frost and slope, and due to how it represents effects of temperature and water stress on plant growth. According to results, three-quarters of French grasslands produce and export at least 7.6 t DM ha-1 yr-1 and 172 kg N ha-1 yr-1, respectively. One-quarter of French grasslands produce and export at least 10.7 t DM ha-1 yr-1 and 254 kg N ha-1 yr-1, respectively. The latter are located mainly in northwestern France, the north-western Massif Central, the French Alps and the western Pyrénées, all of which have environmental conditions favourable for grass growth. The metamodels developed are interesting proxies for PâturSTICS' predictions of grassland DMY and NY. Our results provided valuable knowledge that promotes better use of the potential forage production of French and European grasslands to improve protein selfsufficiency and N fertilisation management in ruminant livestock systems.
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Anne-Isabelle Graux, Rémi Resmond, Eric Casellas, Luc Delaby, Philippe Faverdin, et al.. High-resolution assessment of French grassland dry matter and nitrogen yields. European Journal of Agronomy, Elsevier, 2020, 112, pp.125952. ⟨10.1016/j.eja.2019.125952⟩. ⟨hal-02628325⟩

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