Bork, E. W. and Blonski, L. J. 2012. Short-term native grassland compositional responses following liquid hog manure application. Can. J. Plant Sci. 92: 55-65. Intensive livestock operations (ILOs) are becoming more common in remote regions of the Canadian prairies in an effort to reduce conflict with other land uses. This has led to ILOs situated where the typical sink for manure application, cultivated land, is not available, leading to growing interest in using native grasslands for manure disposal. Significant opposition exists to this practice, in part due to limited information available on the impact of manure application to native grassland diversity and species composition. We examined plant species composition changes over two growing seasons following varying rates (∼9.5, 19, 38, 75 and 150 kg ha-1 available N), methods (surface broadcast vs. coulter injected) and timing (fall vs. spring) of one-time liquid hog manure (LHM) application. Our results revealed divergent responses between study sites, with metrics of plant diversity declining in mixed prairie but increasing in fescue grassland with increases in manure application rate. Both communities also demonstrated minor changes in plant species composition, primarily in response to LHM rate and manure application method. Responsive plant species included a mix of native grasses and dicots, some of which may be regarded as undesirable (e.g., Artemisia frigida): however, most vegetation responses were temporary and disappeared by the second year. Although invasion of non-native plant species was not observed, suggesting these communities are tolerant of LHM application, changes in the reproductive effort of dominant grasses (negative in Hesperostipa curtiseta; positive in Pascopyrum smithii and Festuca hallii) suggest LHM application could alter long-term grassland composition. Thus, despite exhibiting resilience to one-time LHM application, future use of native grasslands for manure disposal should be done cautiously.
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