Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp 211–230 | Cite as

Irrigation and nitrogen managements affect nitrogen leaching and root yield of sugar beet

  • Mehdi Barzegari
  • Ali Reza Sepaskhah
  • Seyed Hamid Ahmadi
Original Article


Irrigation water and nitrogen (N) are the limiting factors for crop production in arid and semi-arid areas. However, excess irrigation and N application rate is a source of groundwater contamination. Partial root drying irrigation (PRD) is the water-saving technique and would perform as a controlling measure of groundwater N contamination as it reduces irrigation amount. Sugar beet is an industrial crop that is widely grown in arid and semi-arid area where N and water are highly required for high sugar beet yield production. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the interaction effect of ordinary furrow irrigation (OFI), and PRD irrigation as variable alternate furrow irrigation (VAFI) and fixed alternate furrow irrigation (FAFI) with different N application rates (0, 80, 160, and 240 kg ha−1) on sugar beet root and sugar yield, yield quality, drainage water, N leaching, N uptake, and N efficiency indices. Results indicated that the alternate furrow irrigation (AFI) used 24% less irrigation water compared with the OFI in the study region, whereas its sugar yield was reduced just by 9%. However, it resulted in higher water productivity by 12 and 17% for root and sugar yields, respectively. In different N application rates nitrate leaching reduced by 46 and 52% in the VAFI and FAFI irrigation treatments compared with the OFI, respectively. Physiologic nitrogen efficiency enhanced in VAFI with 160 kg N ha−1 that implied higher production of uptake N in plants. Therefore, considering the nitrogen use economics and environmental impacts, the VAFI and 160 kg N ha−1 were preferred to the other irrigation treatments and N application rates in the study region. Higher nitrogen saving occurred because of less leaching and higher soil residual in the AFI treatment compared with the OFI. Furthermore, leaf level stress sensitivity index indicated that VAFI increased the sugar beet resistance to water stress. Overall, in order to avoid N losses in sugar beet production, the amount of N fertilizer should be reduced in proportion to the amount of soil water available under VAFI water-saving irrigation.


Variable alternative furrow irrigation Fixed alternative furrow irrigation Deficit irrigation Partial root drying irrigation Nitrogen leaching Nitrogen efficiency 



This research was supported in part by Grant No. 96-GR-AGR-42 of Shiraz University Research Council, Drought Research Center, Center of Excellence on Farm Water Management and Iran National Science Foundation (INSF).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Irrigation Department, Faculty of AgricultureShiraz UniversityShirazIslamic Republic of Iran
  2. 2.Drought Research CenterShiraz UniversityShirazIslamic Republic of Iran

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