Story: Farming and the environment

The nitrogen cycle in grazed pasture

The nitrogen cycle in grazed pasture

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for pasture growth. It is supplied by clovers or other legumes, which fix it from the atmosphere, or by fertiliser. Animals take in nitrogen when they eat pasture and excrete most of it in urine. Cattle urine applies nitrogen to patches of soil at very high rates, so a large amount can be leached through the soil and may enter the ground water. This water eventually reaches streams, ponds or lakes and, if the nitrogen content is high enough, can encourage aquatic weed growth. In wetland areas, some nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere as nitrous oxide.

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How to cite this page:

Julia Haggerty and Hugh Campbell, 'Farming and the environment - Effects on soil and water', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 8 December 2021)

Story by Julia Haggerty and Hugh Campbell, published 24 Nov 2008