Plant and Soil

, Volume 210, Issue 1, pp 11-20

First online:

Nitrogen uptake and partitioning under alternate- and every-furrow irrigation

  • R. Howard SkinnerAffiliated withPasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS
  • , Jon D. HansonAffiliated withPasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS
  • , Joseph G. BenjaminAffiliated withPasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS

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Alternate-furrow irrigation, combined with fertilizer placement in the non-irrigated furrow, has the potential to reduce fertilizer leaching in irrigated corn (Zea mays L.). The potential also exists, however, for reduced N uptake under alternate-furrow irrigation. This study examined the effects of fertilizer placement and irrigation treatment on N uptake, roota→shoot→root circulation, and partitioning between reproductive and vegetative tissues. Rainfall was above average in both years of the study, especially during May and June, so that root growth beneath the non-irrigated furrow was equal to root production beneath the irrigated furrow. Under those conditions, soil NO3 concentration in the fertilized furrow during late-vegetative and reproductive growth was greater in the alternate-furrow compared with the every-furrow treatment, resulting in increased fertilizer N uptake during reproductive growth and increased N partitioning to reproductive tissues under alternate-furrow irrigation. About 80% of the fertilizer N found in roots had first been translocated to the shoot and then returned via the phloem to the root system. Nitrogen cycling from root to shoot to root was not affected by irrigation treatment. Alternate-furrow irrigation successfully increased N uptake and reduced the potential for NO3leaching when environmental conditions allowed adequate root development in the non-irrigated furrow, and when the growing season was long enough to allow the crop to reach physiological maturity.