New Mexico supports over 290 000 dairy cattle. These cattle produce large quantities of manure. It has been suggested excess dairy manure could be applied to rangelands as an organic fertilizer to increase soil fertility and herbaceous production. Manure was applied June 2000 to a rangeland in New Mexico dominated by blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis (Willd. ex Kunth) Lag. ex Griffiths) according to phosphorus (P) content: a recommended (light) rate (54 kg P·ha−1) to enhance blue grama growth and a gross overapplication (heavy) rate (493 kg P·ha−1) to determine their effects on vegetation. The actual application rate of manure on a dry weight basis was 0, 11 739, and 107 174 kg·ha−1. Four replications of control, light, and heavy rates were established. Herbaceous standing crop (kg·ha−1) was similar 1 growing season after manure application, and greater 2 and 3 growing seasons after application on the light treatment compared with the control. Initially the heavy treatment suppressed herbaceous standing crop; thereafter, standing crop responded in a linear fashion to rainfall. Three growing seasons after manure application, basal cover was similar between light and control treatments, whereas the heavy treatment continued to be characterized principally by manure/litter cover. Heavy disposal-oriented treatments are not suitable for blue grama rangelands because of persistent declines in herbaceous cover and changes in soil salinity. A light manure application rate that is based on P content can increase forb and in particular grass standing crop on arid blue grama rangelands. Successful rangeland manure applications will depend on proper management to insure objectives are met while minimizing any hazards to the environment.
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Vol. 58 • No. 4