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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 70 No. 6, p. 1922-1931
     
    Received: Sept 30, 2005
    Published: Nov, 2006


    * Corresponding author(s): gehlr@msu.edu
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doi:10.2136/sssaj2006.0330

Post-Harvest Soil Nitrate in Irrigated Corn

  1. Ronald J. Gehl *a,
  2. John P. Schmidtb,
  3. Chad B. Godseyc,
  4. Larry D. Madduxd and
  5. W. Barney Gordond
  1. a Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State Univ., Plant and Soil Sciences Bldg., East Lansing, MI 48824
    b USDA-ARS, Building 3702, Curtin Rd., University Park, PA 16802
    c Dep. of Plant and Soil Sciences, Oklahoma State Univ., 368 Agricultural Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078
    d Dep. of Agronomy, Kansas State Univ., 2004 Throckmorton Plant Sciences Center, Manhattan, KS 66506

Abstract

Elevated post-harvest soil NO3 is an indicator that N fertilizer was applied in excess of the amount required to obtain maximum corn (Zea mays L.) yield, and represents a quantifiable environmental risk if water percolates through the soil profile during the fallow season. The reliability of using post-harvest soil NO3 as an indicator of NO3 leaching potential was considered for various field sites with similar soil characteristics and slightly variable rainfall conditions. Six N treatments (surface broadcast) included: (i) 300 and (ii) 250 kg N ha−1 applied at planting; (iii) 250 kg N ha−1 split-applied at planting (1/2) and sidedress (1/2); (iv) 185 kg N ha−1 split-applied at planting (1/3) and sidedress (2/3); (v) 125 kg N ha−1 split-applied at planting (1/5) and sidedress (2/5, 2/5); and (vi) 0 kg N ha−1 At one site, N treatments were represented in each of two irrigation treatments: 1.0× (optimal) and 1.25× (125% optimal). Soil samples were collected in 30-cm increments at preplant and post-harvest to a 240-cm depth. Sand content exceeded 0.8 g g−1 within the 240-cm soil profile at every site except one; and distinct textural transitions were present within the soil profile at four sites. Maximum grain yield was obtained with <185 kg N ha−1 at every site in both years. When less than average water was received at those sites with distinct textural transition (silt and clay to sand) in the upper soil profile, post-harvest soil NO3 for N rates > 180 kg N ha−1 often exceeded 60 kg N ha−1 within a 30-cm sampling depth. When these same sites received additional rainfall, post-harvest results indicated that NO3 had moved down the soil profile, past the textural transition, and perhaps beyond the 240-cm depth. For those sites with uniformly high sand content (0–240 cm), few differences in post-harvest NO3 could be attributed to the N treatments exceeding 185 kg N ha−1 Nitrate had probably moved beyond 240 cm by the end of the growing season. Slight differences in site characteristics (e.g., textural boundaries) can greatly influence conclusions derived from post-harvest soil sampling regarding the risk of NO3 leaching.

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Copyright © 2006. Soil Science SocietySoil Science Society of America