The Scientific World Journal

The Scientific World Journal / 2001 / Article
Special Issue

Optimizing Nitrogen Management in Food and Energy Production and Environmental Protection: 2nd International Nitrogen Conference 2001

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Research Article | Open Access

Volume 1 |Article ID 835475 | 6 pages |

Nitrogen Fertilizer Rate and Crop Management Effects on Nitrate Leaching from an Agricultural Field in Central Pennsylvania

Academic Editor: Joe Wisniewski


Eighteen pan lysimeters were installed at a depth of 1.2 m in a Hagerstown silt loam soil in a corn field in central Pennsylvania in 1988. In 1995, wick lysimeters were also installed at 1.2 m depth in the same access pits. Treatments have included N fertilizer rates, use of manure, crop rotation (continuous corn, corn-soybean, alfalfa-corn), and tillage (chisel plow-disk, no-till). The leachate data were used to evaluate a number of nitrate leaching models. Some of the highlights of the 11 years of results include the following: 1) growing corn without organic N inputs at the economic optimum N rate (EON) resulted in NO3-N concentrations of 15 to 20 mg l-1 in leachate; 2) use of manure or previous alfalfa crop as partial source of N also resulted in 15 to 20 mg l-1 of NO3-N in leachate below corn at EON; 3) NO3-N concentration in leachate below alfalfa was approximately 4 mg l-1; 4) NO3-N concentration in leachate below soybeans following corn was influenced by fertilizer N rate applied to corn; 5) the mass of NO3-N leached below corn at the EON rate averaged 90 kg N ha-1 (approx. 40% of fertilizer N applied at EON); 6) wick lysimeters collected approximately 100% of leachate vs. 40–50% collected by pan lysimeters. Coefficients of variation of the collected leachate volumes for both lysimeter types were similar; 7) tillage did not markedly affect nitrate leaching losses; 8) tested leaching models could accurately predict leachate volumes and could be calibrated to match nitrate leaching losses in calibration years, but only one model (SOILN) accurately predicted nitrate leaching losses in the majority of validation treatment years. Apparent problems with tested models: there was difficulty estimating sizes of organic N pools and their transformation rates, and the models either did not include a macropore flow component or did not handle macropore flow well.

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