Balancing the Nitrogen Derived from Sewage Effluent and Fertilizers Applied with Drip Irrigation

  • Lijun Guo
  • Jiusheng Li
  • Yanfeng Li
  • Di Xu


Balancing the nitrogen derived from sewage effluent and fertilizers is essential for efficiently utilizing the nitrogen and minimizing the environmental degradations when applying sewage effluent. Pot experiments of maize (Zea mays L.) under drip irrigation were performed using 15N labeled urea to quantify the nitrogen balances of sewage effluent and fertilizers. Field experiments were conducted to confirm the findings of pot experiments. Four nitrogen rates ranging from 0 to 2.64 g/pot (0–210 kg/ha equivalently) for pot experiments and from 0 to 180 kg/ha for field experiments were established applying either secondary sewage effluent (SW) or groundwater (GW). Both pot and field experiments revealed that SW irrigation boosted nitrogen uptake and yield of maize compared to GW irrigation. However, the sewage-derived effects decreased with increasing nitrogen rates. SW irrigation could facilitate the uptake of 15N labeled urea relative to GW irrigation. Nonetheless, the nitrogen containing in effluent possibly had lower uptake effectiveness than the fertilizer urea for maize, suggesting greater potential for nitrogen losses resulting from effluent nitrogen compared to urea nitrogen. The percentage utilization of effluent nitrogen declined from 43 to 34% in 2014 and 48 to 32% in 2015 as nitrogen rates increased from 0 to 2.64 g/pot. Besides, the percentages utilization of total nitrogen (including effluent and fertilizers) under SW irrigation increased from 43 to 55% in 2014 and from 48 to 55% in 2015 when the rates increased from 0 to 1.76 g/pot, and subsequently decreased to 48% in 2014 and 44% in 2015 at the rate of 2.64 g/pot. This result was strengthened by the pattern of nitrogen recovery efficiency observed in the field experiments. Overall results of pot and field experiments recommended an optimal rate of 120 kg/ha for maize under drip irrigation applying SW to maximize nitrogen use efficiency and achieve an acceptably high yield.


Micro irrigation Secondary sewage effluent Nitrogen use efficiency Nitrogen loss Isotope tracer method Maize 



This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 51339007) and the State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River Basin (grant no. 2014 ZY04).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River BasinChina Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower ResearchBeijingChina

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