The uptake of selenium by perennial ryegrass in soils of different organic matter contents receiving sheep excreta

Pei Tzu Kao*, Heather L Buss, Steve P. Mcgrath, Tegan Darch, Helen Warren, Michael RF Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background and aims
The intake of selenium, an essential element for animals and humans, in ruminants is largely determined by selenium concentration in ingested forages, which take up selenium mainly from soil. Ruminant excreta is a common source of organic fertilizer, which provides both nutrients and organic matter. This study aims to unentangle the unclear effect of applying different types of ruminant excreta in soils of different organic matter contents on selenium uptake by forage.

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) was grown in soils of different organic matter contents. Urine and/or feces collected from sheep fed with organic or inorganic mineral supplements, including selenium, were applied to the soils. The selenium in the collected samples were analyzed using ICP-MS. The associated biogeochemical reactions were scrutinized by wet chemistry.

The application of urine and/or feces resulted in either the same or lower selenium concentrations in perennial ryegrass. The excreta type did not affect total selenium accumulation in grass grown in low organic matter soil, whereas in high organic matter soil, feces resulted in significantly lower total selenium accumulation than urine, which was attributed to a possible interaction of selenium sorption in soil and microbial reduction of Se.

This one-time excreta application did not increase, but further decrease in some treatments, selenium concentration and accumulation in the perennial ryegrass. Consequently, to increase ruminant selenium intake, supplementing selenium directly to animals is more recommended than applying animal manure to soil, which might drive selenium reduction and decrease selenium uptake by grass.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-659
Number of pages21
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Early online date2 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was carried out as part of Rothamsted Research Institute Strategic Programme Soil to Nutrition supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBS/E/C/000I0310). The facility used for collecting sheep urine and feces was provided by North Wyke Farm Platform, a UK National Capability supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (BBS/E/C/000J0100).

Funding Information:
We would like to thank people from Rothamsted Research: Sarah Dunham, Mark Durenkamp, Aranzazu Louro-Lopez who helped with sample preparation and analysis; Ian Shield and Joanna Carter who helped with soil collection and transportation; Andrew Mead who helped with statistics, and also Alltech Ltd., who provided funding for the lead author’s PhD.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • fertilizers
  • manure
  • microbial reduction
  • grassland soil
  • pasture
  • ruminants
  • selenium


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