Optimizing Nitrogen Management in Food and Energy Production and Environmental Protection: 2nd International Nitrogen Conference 2001View this Special Issue
Best Management Practices for Minimizing Nitrate Leaching from Container-Grown Nurseries
Containerized plant production represents an extremely intensive agricultural practice; 40,000 to 300,000 containers may occupy one acre of surface area to which a large amount of chemical fertilizer is applied. Currently, recommended fertilizer application rates for the production of containerized nursery ornamental plants are in excess of plant requirements, and up to 50% of the applied fertilizers may run off or be leached from containers. Among the nutrients leached or allowed to runoff, nitrogen (N) is the most abundant and is of major concern as the source of ground and surface water pollution. In this report, current N fertilizer application rates for different container-grown nursery ornamental plants, the amount of nitrate leaching or runoff from containers, and the potential for nitrate contamination of ground and surface water are discussed. In contrast, our best N management practices include: (1) applying fertilizers based on plant species need; (2) improving potting medium�s nutrient holding capacity using obscure mineral additives; (3) using controlled-release fertilizers; and (4) implementing zero runoff irrigation or fertigation delivery systems that significantly reduce nitrate leaching or runoff in containerized plant production and encourage dramatic changes in N management.