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Nitrogen volatilization

Volatilization differences between N sources

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

Afrikaans Version: Verskille in vervlugtiging tussen Stikstofbronne Volatilization of applied nitrogen (N) is primarily in the form of ammonia (NH3), although losses in the form of atmospheric N (N2 and N2O) may also occur when soils are waterlogged. Ammonia is released from ammonium (NH4+) containing and forming fertilisers when there is insufficient soil water present in which the ammonia can dissolve. This will also occur when fertilisers are applied and left remaining on or close to the soil surface. Atmospheric nitrogen is formed from nitrate nitrogen (NO3–) when the topsoil is waterlogged and deprived of oxygen for long periods. Water scarcity rather than long periods of water logging are far more common in South Africa. This article therefore focusses on ammonia losses from applied fertilisers combined with factors affecting this process such as soil pH and temperature. The efficacies of urease inhibitors which delay the conversion of urea to ammonia together with other possible solutions for the problem of ammonia volatilization are also discussed. Soil pH significantly affects Ammonia volatilization losses. Ammonia losses from urea were increased by 18% over five soils when the pH was increased from 6.5 to 9.1 (Figure 1). Most losses occurred from urea, followed by DAP, Ammonium sulphate, MAP and LAN (Figure 1). The difference in ammonia volatilization between urea and LAN was 15% at a pH of 9.1 (Figure 1). The conversion of urea to ammonium and also DAP to ammonium are alkaline reactions. This explains why these products will lose more N in the form of ammonia than other products, forming or releasing similar quantities of ammonium with no increase in pH. High application rates of urea or DAP which would result in high concentrations on the soil surface will increase soil pH more and consequently more ammonia will be formed and lost. Nitrogen loss in the form of ammonia could be much higher than indicated in Figure 1. Du Preez & Burger (1986) showed ammonia losses of 55% which resulted from urea applications at a rate of 240 kg N/ha, on a soil containing 50% clay and which had an original pH (H2O) of 7.5. Botha & Pretorius (1988) showed ammonia losses of as much as 61% following urea applications at a rate of 83 kg N/ha on a soil with a clay content of 9.5% and a pH (H2O) of 7.9 after urea applications. Fenn & Miyamoto (1981) showed ammonia losses of 66% following urea surface applications on a soil with a pH (H2O) of 7.8. Ammonia losses are significantly affected by temperature. As temperatures increased from spring to mid-summer ammonia losses increased tremendously when using urea but also significantly with UAN (Figure 2). Ammonia losses from LAN however remained very low with increasing temperatures (Figure 2). Hoeft, (2000) stated that the potential for urease inhibitors to be effective would be best above 10° C. Urease inhibitors such as Agrotain, SKW Piesteritz and Hanfeng Evergreen delay the conversion of urea to ammonia and therefore also the release of ammonia. The…

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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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