Redistribution and fate of applied ¹⁵N-enriched urea under irrigated continuous corn production
Schindler, Frank Vincent
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Understanding the redistribution and fate of N is essential for justification of Best Management Practices (BMP). This project was conducted on a Hecla fine sandy loam (sandy, mixed, Aquic Haploboroll) soil at the BMP field site near Oakes, North Dakota. One objective of this investigation was to evaluate the residence times of N03- -N in 20 undisturbed lysimeters and its infiltration time through the soil profile to tile drains. Corn (Zea mays L.) was fertilized with 135 kg N ha -1 as ¹⁵N-enriched urea plus 13.5 and 48.1 kg N ha -1 preplant for 1993 and 1994, respectively. Urea-N was band applied to 20 and 10 undisturbed lysimeters at 2.0 and 5.93 atom percent (at %) ¹⁵N in 1993 and 1994, respectively. Average resident times of N03- -N in the lysimeters was 11.7 months. Lysimeter and tile drainage indicate the presence of preferential pathways. Residence times of N03- -N depend on frequency and intensity of precipitation events. Another objective was to determine what portion of the total N in the crop was from applied urea-N and what portion was from the native soil-N. Nitrogen plots received ¹⁵N enrichments of 4.25 and 5.93 at % ¹⁵N in 1993 and 1994, respectively. At the end of the 1993 and 1994 growing season, 41.5% and 35.7% of the labeled fertilizer N remained in the soil profile, while the total recovery of applied ¹⁵N in the soil-plant system was 86.2% and 75.4%, respectively. Low recoveries of applied N may have been the result of soil or aboveground plant biomass volatilization, or denitrification or preferential flow processes. Further research needs to be conducted with strict accountability of gaseous loss and the mechanism(s) responsible.