Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 106, Issue 1, pp 113–128 | Cite as

Delaying nitrogen fertiliser application improves wheat 15N recovery from high rainfall cropping soils in south eastern Australia

  • Robert H. HarrisEmail author
  • Roger D. Armstrong
  • Ashley J. Wallace
  • Oxana N. Belyaeva
Original Article


Improving nitrogen (N) fertiliser uptake of crops growing in soils susceptible to waterlogging could potentially reduce fertiliser input costs and harmful losses of N to the surrounding environment. The fate of 15N labelled urea applied to wheat cv. Bolac was studied on brown chromosol soils at Hamilton and Tarrington, in the high rainfall zone of south western Victoria, in south eastern Australia. Wheat was fertilised with 15N-urea solution, either deep banded 0.1 m below the seed at sowing or top-dressed with or without the nitrification inhibitor DMPP (3,4-dimethylpyrazole phosphate or ENTEC®) later in the crops development. Daily temporal topsoil (0–0.1 m) water was monitored, throughout the growing season, and at physiological maturity the recovery of 15N-urea in straw, grain and soil (to 0.4 or 0.6 m depth) was measured. Delaying untreated 15N-urea application until top-dressing at mid-tillering to first node stage of growth resulted in significantly (P < 0.001) greater recovery of applied N than when deep banded at sowing or top-dressed shortly after crop emergence. However, top-dressing with DMPP did not significantly improve crop recovery of 15N-urea compared with untreated urea, except when top-dressed early in the growing season. Across all sites, between 64 and 84 % of the applied 15N-urea was recovered in the plant and soil at maturity when top-dressed at mid tillering to first node, compared with 7–42 % when 15N-urea was either deep banded at sowing or top-dressed shortly after crop emergence. The poor recovery of 15N-urea when applied around sowing appeared to result from wet to waterlogged soil and subsequent gaseous or drainage losses before wheat reached peak growth and demand for N in spring. Despite, the poor recovery from 15N-urea applied early in the growing season, wheat grain yields were the same as those top-dressed with 15N-urea; the former treatment compensating for low fertiliser recovery by sourcing more N from the soil. All sites had high concentrations of topsoil organic C (>2.8 %) and the potential for large rates of mineralisation during the growing season.


Wheat Nitrogen Nitrification inhibitor 3,4-Dimethylpyrazole phosphate Urea Nitrogen recovery Soil mineral nitrogen 



We thank Brent Herrmann for allowing us to conduct the Tarrington experiment on his property, Debra Partington for biometric advice and Kirsten Fogarty, the late Michael Byron and Reto Zollinger for technical assistance. This research was funded through the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Filling the Research Gap Program, the Grains Research and Development Corporation, More Profit from Crop Nutrition Program (DAV00125) and the Victorian State Government.


  1. Adjetey JA, Campbell LC, Searle PGE, Saffigna P (1999) Studies on depth of placement of urea on nitrogen recovery in wheat grown on a red-brown earth in Australia. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 54:227–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson WK, French RJ, Seymour M (1992) Yield responses of wheat and other crops to agronomic practices on duplex compared to other soils in Western Australia. Aust J Exp Agric 32:963–970CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angus JF (2001) Nitrogen supply and demand in Australian agriculture. Aust J Exp Agric 41:277–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bakker DM, Hamilton GJ, Houlbrooke DJ, Spann C (2005) The effect of raised beds on soil structure, waterlogging, and productivity on duplex soils in Western Australia. Aust J Soil Res 43:575–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baldock J (2003) Match fertiliser rates with available water. Farming Ahead 140:40–43Google Scholar
  6. Barth G, von Tucher S, Schmidhalter U (2001a) Effectiveness of 3,4-dimethylpyrazole phosphate as a nitrification inhibitor in soil as influenced by inhibitor concentration, application form, and soil matrix potential. Pedosphere 18:378–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barth G, von Tucher S, Schmidhalter U (2001b) Influence of soil parameters on the effect of 3,4-dimethylpyrazole phosphate as a nitrification inhibitor. Biol Fertil Soils 34:98–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Belyaeva ON, Officer SJ, Armstrong RD, Harris RH, Wallace A, Partington DL, Fogarty K, Phelan AJ (2016) Use of the agricultural practice of pasture termination in reducing soil N2O emissions in high rainfall cropping systems of south-eastern Australia. Soil Res. doi: 10.1071/SR15307 Google Scholar
  9. Bronson KF, Fillery IRP (1998) Fate of nitrogen-15-labelled urea applied to wheat on a waterlogged texture contrast soil. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 51:175–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Christy B, Riffkin PA, Clough A, Norton R, Stott K, O’Leary G (2015) Crop yield potential limited by nutrient status in the high rainfall zone of Southern Australia. In: The proceedings of the 17th Australian Agronomy Conference Hobart.
  11. Ciarlo E, Conti M, Bartoloni N, Rubio G (2007) The effect of moisture on nitrous oxide emissions from soil and the N2O/(N2O + N2) ratio under laboratory conditions. Biol Fertil Soils 43:675–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clark IM, Buchkina N, Jhurreea D, Goulding KWT, Hirsch PR (2012) Impacts of nitrogen application rates on the activity and diversity of denitrifying bacteria in the Broadbalk Wheat Experiment. Philos Trans R Soc B 367:1235–1244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dalal RC, Wang W, Robertson GP, Parton WJ (2003) Nitrous oxide emissions from Australian agricultural lands and mitigation options: a review. Aust J Soil Res 41:165–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Di HJ, Cameron KC (2012) How does the application of different nitrification inhibitors affect nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching from cow urine in grazed pastures. Soil Use Manag 28:54–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Drew MC, Sisworo EJ, Saker LR (1979) Alleviation of waterlogging damage to young barley plants by application of nitrate and asynthetic cytokinin, and comparison between the effects of waterlogging, nitrogen deficiency and root extension. New Phytol 82:315–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Drury CF, Reynolds WD, Tan CS, Welacky TW, Calder W, McLaughlin NB (2006) Emissions of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide: influence of tillage type and nitrogen placement depth. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:570–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fillery IR, McInnes KJ (1992) Components of the fertiliser nitrogen balance for wheat production on duplex soils. Aust J Exp Agric 32:887–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fischer RA, Howe GN, Ibrahim Z (1993) Irrigated spring wheat and timing and amount of nitrogen fertilizer. I Grain yield and protein content. Field Crops Res 33:37–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gardner WK (1990) Coping with waterlogging in the high rainfall zone of southern Australia. In: The proceedings of the 5th Australian Agronomy Conference Perth.
  20. Gardner WK, McDonald GK (1988) Responses by wheat to lupin, soil amelioration and fertiliser treatments in a solodised solonetz soil. Aust J Exp Agric 28:607–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harris RH, Officer SJ, Hill PA, Armstrong RD, Fogarty KM, Zollinger RP, Phelan AJ, Partington DL (2013) Can nitrogen fertiliser and nitrification inhibitor management influence N2O losses from high rainfall cropping systems in South Eastern Australia? Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 95:269–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harris RH, Armstrong RD, Wallace AJ, Belyaeva ON (2016) Effect of nitrogen fertiliser management on soil mineral N, nitrous oxide (N2O) losses, yield and N uptake of wheat growing in waterlogged prone soils of south-eastern Australia. Soil Res. doi: 10.1071/SR15292 Google Scholar
  23. Hauck RD, Bremner JM (1976) Use of tracers for soil and fertilizer nitrogen research. Adv Agron 28:219–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heffer P, Prud’homme M (2014) Fertilizer Outlook 2014-18. In: 82nd International fertilizer association annual conference (International Fertilizer Association: Sydney).
  25. Lake A (2012) Australia’s declining crop yield trends II: the role of nitrogen nutrition. In: Proceedings of the 16th Australian Agronomy Conference (Australian Society of Agronomy: Armidale).
  26. MacEwan RJ, Gardner WK, Ellington A, Hopkins DG, Bakker AC (1992) Tile and mole drainage for control of waterlogging in duplex soils of south-eastern Australia. Aust J Exp Agric 32:865–878CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mihelcic JR (1999) Fundamentals of environmental engineering. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Passioura JB (1977) Grain yield, harvest index and water use of wheat. J Aust Inst Agric Sci 43:117–120Google Scholar
  29. Pfab H, Palmer I, Buegger F, Fiedler S, Muller T, Ruser R (2012) Influence of a nitrification inhibitor and placed N fertilization on N2O fluxes from a vegetable cropped loamy soil. Agric Ecosyst Environ 150:91–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ridley AM, Christy BP, White RE, McLean T, Green R (2003) North-east Victoria SGS National Experiment site: water and nutrient losses from grazing systems on contrasting soil types and levels of inputs. Aust J Exp Agric 43:799–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Robertson D, Zhang H, Palta J, Colmer T, Turner NC (2009) Waterlogging affects the growth, development of tillers, and yield of wheat through a severe, but transient, N deficiency. Crop Pasture Sci 60:578–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Robertson F, Crawford D, Partington D, Oliver I, Rees D, Aumann C, Armstrong R, Perris R, Davey M, Moodie M, Baldock J (2016) Soil organic carbon in cropping and pasture systems of Victoria, Australia. Soil Res 54:64–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Searle PL (1984) The Bertholet or indophenol reaction and its use in the analytical chemistry of Nitrogen. Analyst 109:549–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shepherd M, Wyatt J, Welten B (2012) Effect of soil type and rainfall on dicyandiamide concentrations in drainage from lysimeters. Soil Res 50:67–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Skrzypek G, Paul D (2006) δ13C analyses of calcium carbonate: comparison between the GasBench and elemental analyser techniques. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 20:2915–2920CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Verma K, Zheng XH, Singh SN (2008) Attenuation of N2O emission rates from agricultural soil at different dicyandiamide concentrations. Environ Monit Assess 137:287–293CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Walkley A, Black IA (1934) An examination of the Degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter, and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method. Soil Sci 37:29–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Watson ER, Lapins P, Barron RJW (1976) Effect of waterlogging on the growth, grain yield and straw yield of wheat, barley and oats. Aust J Exp Agric Anim Husb 16:114–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Weiske A, Benckiser G, Herbert T, Ottow JCG (2001) Influence of the nitrification inhibitor 3,4-dimethylppyrazole phosphate (DMPP) in comparison to dicyandiamide (DCD) on nitrous oxide emissions, carbon dioxide fluxes and methane oxidation during 3 years of repeated application in field experiments. Biol Fertil Soils 34:109–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zaman M, Blennerhassett JD (2010) Effects of different rates of urease and nitrification inhibitors on gaseous emissions of ammonia and nitrous oxide, nitrate leaching and pasture production from urine patches in an intensive grazed pasture system. Agric Ecosyst Environ 136:236–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zaman M, Nguyen ML (2012) How application timings of urease and nitrification inhibitors affect N losses from urine patches in pastoral system. Agric Ecosyst Environ 156:37–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zerulla W, Barth T, Dressel J, von Locquenghien KEKH, Pasda G, Rädle M, Wissemeier AH (2001) 3,4-Dimethlypyrazole phosphate (DMPP) a new nitrification inhibitor for agriculture and horticulture. Biol Fertil Soils 34:79–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zhang N, Turner NC, Poole ML, Simpson N (2006) Crop production in the high rainfall zones of southern Australia—potential, constraints and opportunities. Aust J Exp Agric 46:1035–1049CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and ResourcesHamilton CentreHamiltonAustralia
  2. 2.DunkeldAustralia
  3. 3.Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and ResourcesHorsham CentreHorshamAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Animal, Plant and Soil SciencesLaTrobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

Personalised recommendations