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Effects of inorganic nitrogen application on the dynamics of the soil solution composition in the root zone of maize

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The effect of inorganic nitrogen (N) fertilizer on the ionic composition of the soil solution under maize (Zea mays L.) was studied. A pot experiment was carried out with two treatments combined factorially, with or without N application (Ca(NO3)2; +N and −N treatments, respectively), and with or without plants. Three looped hollow fiber samplers were installed in each pot to sample soil solutions nondestructively from the root zone, seven times during the 50-day growth period. Plants were harvested on the 50th day, and their nutrient contents determined.

Effects of N fertilizer on the soil solutions were observed by the first sampling, 2 days after sowing. The concentrations of Ca and NO3 and electrical conductivity (EC) increased significantly in the +N treatments as direct effects of fertilizer application. In addition, the concentrations of Mg, K, Na and H+ also increased and that of P decreased significantly as indirect effects caused by the re-establishment of chemical equilibria. This suggested the greater supply as well as the greater possibility of leaching loss not only of NO3 but also of Ca, Mg and K. In the treatments with plants, the concentrations of NO3 , Ca, Mg and K decreased with time and pH increased significantly compared with the unplanted soil. The depletion of N in the soil solution roughly agreed with the amount of N taken up by the plant. The depletions of K from the soil solution amounted to less than 10% of the amount of the K taken up, suggesting intensive replenishment of K from exchange sites in the soil. Depletions of Ca and Mg were several times higher than the amounts taken up, indicating that the depletions resulted from the adsorption of the divalent cations by the soil rather than uptake by plants. Because NO3 is hardly absorbed by exchange sites in soil and was the dominant anion in solution, it was concluded that NO3 had a major role in controlling cation concentrations in the soil solution and, consequently, on their availability for uptake by plants as well as their possible leaching loss. ei]H Marschner

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Yanai, J., Linehan, D.J., Robinson, D. et al. Effects of inorganic nitrogen application on the dynamics of the soil solution composition in the root zone of maize. Plant Soil 180, 1–9 (1996).

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