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

Abstract

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.

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Riley, W., Ortiz-Monasterio, I. & Matson, P. Nitrogen leaching and soil nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium levels under irrigated wheat in Northern Mexico. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 61, 223–236 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013758116346

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  • Developing world agriculture
  • Nitrogen fertilization
  • NLOSS model
  • Soil nitrogen profile