Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 223–236 | Cite as

Nitrogen leaching and soil nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium levels under irrigated wheat in Northern Mexico

  • W.J. Riley
  • I. Ortiz-Monasterio
  • P.A. Matson


Nitrate (NO−1 3) leaching from agricultural soils can represent a substantial loss of fertilizer nitrogen (N), but a large variation in losses has been reported. We report N leaching losses under four N fertilizer treatments and two farmer's fields in the Yaqui Valley, Mexico. In these irrigated wheat systems, farmers typically apply 250 kg N ha−1 as anhydrous ammonia (knifed in) or urea(broadcast), with 75% applied directly before planting and 25% at the time of the first post-planting irrigation. Over two wheat seasons, we compared typical farmer's practices to alternatives that applied less N and more closely timed fertilizer application to plant demand. Field lysimeter measurements and predictions from a water transport simulation model (called NLOSS) were used to estimate the amount of N leached over the season. Approximately 5 and 2% of the applied N leached below the root zone with the typical farmer's practice in 1995–96 and 1997–98,respectively. The alternative treatments reduced N leaching losses by 60 to95% while producing comparable economic returns to the farmer. Leaching losses from the two farmer's fields were substantially higher (about 14and26% of the applied N). Our results indicate that the typical farmer's practice leads to relatively high N leaching losses, and that alternative practices synchronizing fertilizer application with crop demand can substantially reduce these losses.

Developing world agriculture Nitrogen fertilization NLOSS model Soil nitrogen profile 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • W.J. Riley
    • 1
  • I. Ortiz-Monasterio
    • 2
  • P.A. Matson
    • 3
  1. 1.Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkelyUSA
  2. 2.CIMMYTMexicoMexico
  3. 3.Department of Geological and Environmental SciencesStanford UniversityPalo AltoUSA

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