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Nitrogen toxicity

Differences in toxicity effects between LAN and urea

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

AFRIKAANS: Die verskil in toksisiteit tussen KAN en ureum Plant mixtures differ to a large extent in nitrogen (N) composition. Nitrate-N: ammonium-N ratios vary according to raw material contents. The optimum nitrate: ammonium-ratio is close to 3:1 while 100% ammonium-N could impair plant growth and yield (Adriaanse 1990). Some companies use urea-N as the primary N source in plant mixtures. Urea in close proximity to developing seedlings could impair or terminate growth. The band placement of certain N sources away from the plant mixture could also reduce yield. (Adriaanse 2012). Furthermore yield could be reduced by an overall excess of N in the soil. (Adriaanse and Schmidt, 2003). This article focuses on potential negative effects of band placed LAN and urea on germination, emergence, and production of maize and wheat. Plant Population Reductions The application of urea and ammonium nitrate at the same relatively high N rate may result in high seedling mortalities for urea compared to no mortalities for ammonium nitrate (Figure 1). These symptoms are often mistaken for genetically associated poor germination or poor seedling vigour. In addition these symptoms are often wrongly ascribed to damage caused by soil insects or meerkats. The band placement of 100 kg N/ha, 50 to 100 mm directly below maize seed at row widths of 1.5 m, resulted in a plant population loss of 4800 plants/ha with LAN compared to a loss of 13300 plants/ha when urea was used (Figure 2). Reductions in plant population were significantly more with urea compared to LAN at both 75 and 100 kg N/ha (Figure 2). This research illustrates relative differences in toxicity between urea and LAN under very specific conditions but does not imply that band placement of either of these N sources directly below the seed at low N rates is an acceptable practice under all conditions. Yield Loss Reductions in plant population due to the application of high N rates, is an indication of very severe N toxicity effects. Impairment of plant growth and yield loss could occur at much lower N concentrations. In another study where urea and LAN were band placed at planting, at a distance of 10 to 15 cm from the row, at a depth of 10 cm, the yield loss for urea compared to LAN was 20% at 100 kg/ha and 44% at 175 kg/ha (Adriaanse, 2012). Row widths were 1.5 m. Most farmers would probably not have been aware of the fact that urea toxicity had occurred.  The yield at 100 kg N/ha in the form of urea was 5 ton/ha which is in line with the yield potential of the area. No toxicity symptoms were observed on the plants, however a yield improvement of 20% at 100 kg N/ha could have been achieved had LAN been used under the same circumstances. Toxicity Symptoms Toxicity symptoms associated with high rates of both urea and LAN applications would probably result in yield loss due to high N concentrations in the soil. In contrast, scorching of leaves associated with spreading of N sources over leaf…

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El Nino or La Nina – manage nitrogen (N) in the soil to ensure maximum maize yield, maximum profit and minimum risk.

By Nitrogen, Nitrogen Products No Comments

AFRIKAANS: El Nino of La Nina – bestuur stikstof (N) in die grond om maksimum mielieopbrengs, maksimum wins en minimum risiko te verseker The quantity of measurable inorganic N that should be in the soil throughout the growing period for maximum yield does not differ between El Nino (dry) or La Nina (wet) or average rainfall seasons but the actual yield, profitability and risk will differ to a large extent between these conditions. The quantity of N that is taken up and utilized by the crop will also differ largely between dry and wet seasons. For this reason it can be expected that more N will be applied during a wet season to maintain the quantity of N in the soil. It can also be expected that more N will be left over in the soil after a dry season which can effectively be utilized during the next season. The management of a threshold value for N in the soil for every season will effectively result in fertilization according to obtained yield and N removal from the soil over seasons. N-losses and N-toxicity effects will however very strongly be affected by an under or over supply of rain. Apart from soil N-measurements, choice of N-source and N-management practices can effectively be used to reduce these negative effects. El Nino conditions also coincide with high temperatures resulting in volatilization losses from ammonia forming products such as urea. Ammonia losses can result from surface applications as well as soil incorporated applications when the topsoil dries out. Ammonia released in close proximity of plant roots will be toxic under dry conditions. Urease inhibitors such as NBPT will effectively reduce or delay volatilization and toxicity from urea but will not eliminate these effects. Almost no N will volatilize from LAN even at high temperatures. LAN will only be moderately toxic at high concentrations. The band placement of high concentrations ammonia forming N-sources at planting but even before plating should therefore be avoided. La Nina conditions also coincides with heavy downpours over short periods resulting in N-leaching in well drain soils or water logging in poorly drained soils. Urea-N and nitrate-N are equally leachable but due to the fact that nitrate uptake is much quicker it will effectively leach much less than urea. Ammonium-N does not leach significantly and is also taken up much quicker than urea-N. LAN will therefore also leach much less than urea. Due to the possible risk of leaching pre-plant applications should rather be avoided and multiple post-plant topdressings considered. N is not taken up effectively in soils that are waterlogged for prolonged periods. Oxygen is required for N-uptake but also for the nitrification process. Consequently high levels of ammonium-N and nitrite-N, which are toxic, will accumulate. Nitrate-N dissolved in soil water near the soil surface will be converted to atmospheric N through the denitrification process and lost. Vertical or lateral drainage of soils should improve this condition.  

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