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Nitrogen leaching

Leaching of different N Sources

By Nitrogen, Nitrogen Products, PLANT & SOIL NUTRITION No Comments

AFRIKAANS:┬áVerskille in loging tussen Stikstofbronne Inorganic nitrogen (N) dissolved in groundwater could be lost for crop production through downward and sideway movements of groundwater, resulting in lower yields and profit margins above costs. Differences in leaching between N sources can effectively be utilized to reduce the risk of N leaching. N management practices such as application methods and timing could also contribute significantly to reductions in leaching losses. Basic scientific principles and case studies associated with severe losses in revenue were used to develop guidelines for combatting N leaching losses. The application of different N-sources results in one or a combination of nitrate-N, ammonium-N and urea-N dissolved in groundwater. The vertical movement of these forms of inorganic N in groundwater are displayed for a Sandy Loam soil in Figures 1 and for a Clay Soil in Figure 2. Ammonium-N resulted in very little leaching but large portions of the applied Nitrate-N en Urea-N moved with the groundwater to the level of water penetration. A little bit more Ammonium-N moved into the Sandy Loam soil compared to the Clay Soil but these amounts were insignificant for both soils. Larger portions of the applied Urea-N and Nitrate-N moved with the groundwater to the level of water penetration in the Sandy Loam soil compared to the Clay soil. Half of the LAN will show a similar response to Ammonium Sulphate and the other half similar to Calcium Nitrate since LAN consists of 50% Ammonium-N and 50% Nitrate-N. According to Figures 1 and 2 the immediate leaching potential of LAN is about 50% less than that of Urea. Ammonium-N could however over time be converted to leachable nitrate-N through the process of nitrification. The effect of LAN which was applied shortly before planting and at planting, followed by heavy downpours, resulting in severe leaching are presented in Figure 3. Severe N deficiencies in leaves and in the soil up to a depth of 60 cm have been confirmed with this case study. Yield loss as a result of N leaching was estimated between 7 and 8 ton/ha. Although risks of N-leaching are much less with LAN compared to Urea it is recommended that neither LAN nor urea be applied before planting on well drained soils. The effect of vertical as well as lateral movement of applied N due to excess rain is visible in Figure 4. N analysis in a strip over the rows to a depth of 750 mm was 39 kg/ha for A where the maize was yellow and stunted but 179 kg/ha where the maize was much more prolific and also greener. N analysis between the rows where N was not applied was 32 kg N/ha in the top 60 cm soil for both A and B. Variation in crop growth was therefore directly related to variation in soil N analysis over rows. This effect is often observed under high rainfall conditions on sandy soils, irrespective of time of N application. These symptoms are often incorrectly ascribed to poor fertilizer quality…

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