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Surfactant Impact on Nitrogen Utilization and Leaching in Potatoes


Some producers face a unique problem with potato (Solanum tuberosum) production on sandy soils where a dry zone can develop in the potato hill. Surfactants may reduce this dry zone by decreasing water surface tension, thus enhancing water and nutrient uptake. A study was established to determine if band applying nonionic surfactant at 9.35 L ha−1 in the seed furrow at planting would reduce nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) leaching and increase potato yield and quality. Nitrogen (N) fertilizer was applied at 34, 168, 236, and 303 kg N ha−1. Porous cup samplers were installed beneath the row at 1-m depth in three treatments, with soil solution samples collected weekly. Nitrate-N concentration and irrigation + rainfall data were used to estimate nitrate leaching. Surfactant application resulted in changes of total NO3-N load between + 6.0 and −46.7% for this 3- year study; however, because of high within-treatment variation for the soil water NO3-N samples, these differences were not statistically significant at the < 0.10 p-value, although a two sample t-test of +/− surfactant treatments across N rates and years resulted in a < 0.01 p-value. Nitrate-N leaching increased with increasing N fertilization rate. Soil NO3-N concentration 20 days after the last N fertilization was significantly less (30.1%) with surfactant application across all years and N rates. Soil NH4-N at this time also tended to be decreased with surfactant application (19.7% reduction, p = 0.12). Total potato yield was not affected by surfactant use, but increased with increasing N rate. Tuber N content increased with surfactant use, resulting in increased crop N uptake.


Algunos productores se enfrentan a un problema único con la producción de papa (Solanum tuberosum) en suelos arenosos, donde se puede desarrollar una zona seca en la zona radicular de siembra de papa. Tensioactivos pueden reducir esta zona seca mediante la disminución de la tensión superficial del agua, mejorando así la absorción de agua y nutrientes. Se estableció un estudio para determinar si la aplicación en banda a la siembra de surfactante no iónico 9.35 L ha−1 en el surco de siembra reduciría la lixiviación del nitrato-nitrógeno (NO3-N) y aumentaría el rendimiento y la calidad de la papa. Se aplicó fertilizante nitrógeno (N) a 34, 168, 236, y 303 kg N ha−1. Se instalaron muestreadores de taza porosa debajo de la hilera a 1-m de profundidad en tres tratamientos, con muestras de solución del suelo recogidas cada semana. Datos de concentración de nitrato-N y de riego + precipitación fueron usados para estimar la lixiviación de nitrato. La aplicación del surfactante dio lugar a cambios en la carga total de NO3-N entre + 6,0 y −46,7% para este estudio de tres años; sin embargo, debido a la alta variación dentro de tratamientos para las muestras de agua del suelo NO3-N, estas diferencias no fueron estadísticamente significativas en el valor p < 0.10, a pesar de que una prueba t para dos muestras de los tratamientos surfactante + / − a través de dosis de N y años dio lugar a un p < 0.01. La lixiviación de nitrato-N aumentó con la dosis de fertilización N. La concentración de NO3-N del suelo 20 días después de la última fertilización N fue significativamente menor (30.1%) con la aplicación del surfactante en todos los años y dosis de N. El NH4-N del suelo en ese momento también tendió a ser disminuido con la aplicación del surfactante (19.7% de reducción, p = 0.12). El rendimiento total de papa no fue afectado por el uso del surfactante, pero aumentó con la dosis de N. El contenido de N en el tubérculo aumentó con el uso del surfactante, lo que resultó en el aumento de absorción de N del cultivo.

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Correspondence to Francisco J. Arriaga.

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Arriaga, F.J., Lowery, B. & Kelling, K.A. Surfactant Impact on Nitrogen Utilization and Leaching in Potatoes. Am. J. Pot Res 86, 383–390 (2009).

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  • Drainage
  • Groundwater
  • N uptake
  • N rate
  • Wetting agent