The influence of lime and nitrogen fertilisers on spore counts of Pithomyces chartarum in pasture

The influence of lime and nitrogen fertilisers on spore counts of Pithomyces chartarum in pasture
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIMS: To determine whether the application of lime or nitrogen to pasture affected the spore counts of Pithomyces chartarum.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The lime application studies were undertaken on a spring-calving, pasture-based, commercial dairy farm near Te Awamutu, New Zealand. On 6 November 2012, five randomly selected paddocks were split into three equal sections. In two of the sections, lime was applied at either 1.5 or 2.5 t/ha, and the central section was left as an untreated control. Each section was sampled for spore counting weekly from 16 January to 15 May 2013.

Starting in January 2013, five other randomly selected paddocks were monitored for spore counts. On 20 March 2013 the average spore counts in three paddocks were >100,000 spores/g of pasture. These paddocks were then divided into three equal sections and lime was applied as described above. Spore counting in each section continued weekly until 15 May 2013.

The nitrogen application study was carried out on three commercial dairy farms near Te Awamutu, New Zealand. Two randomly selected paddocks on each farm were divided into three equal sections and, on 20 December 2012, nitrogen in the form of urea was applied at either 50 or 80 kg urea/ha to two of the sections; the central section remained as an untreated control. Each section was sampled for spore counting weekly from 16 January to 15 May 2013.

RESULTS: Following pre-summer lime application, treatment at 1.5 or 2.5 t/ha did not affect spore counts over time compared with the control section (p>0.26). Similarly following autumn lime application, treatment at 1.5 or 2.5 t/ha did not affect spore counts over time compared with the control section (p>0.11). Following nitrogen application median spore counts remained <20,000 spores/g pasture throughout the trial period and there was no effect of treatment on spore counts over time (p>0.49).

CONCLUSION: This study found that application of lime before the risk period for facial eczema, in November, application of lime after a spore count rise, in March, or urea application in December did not affect changes in number of spores produced by P. chartarum.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This study does not support previous suggestions that fertilising pasture with lime or urea could alter the spore counts of P. chartarum. Fertiliser use does not provide an alternative to, or support, conventional methods of facial eczema control such as zinc prophylaxis or treatment of pasture with fungicides.


KEY WORDS: Facial eczema, lime, nitrogen, urea, Pithomyces chartarum, spores

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