Nitrate loss in subsurface drainage as affected by nitrogen fertilizer rate

The relationships between N fertilizer rate, yield, and NO3 leaching need to be quantified to develop soil and crop management practices that are economically and environmentally sustainable. From 1996 through 1999, we measured yield and NO3 loss from a subsurface drained field in central Iowa at three N fertilizer rates: a low (L) rate of 67 kg ha?1 in 1996 and 57 kg ha?1 in 1998, a medium (M) rate of 135 kg ha?1 in 1996 and 114 kg ha?1 in 1998, and a high (H) rate of 202 kg ha?1 in 1996 and 172 kg ha?1 in 1998. Corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] were grown in rotation with N fertilizer applied in the spring to corn only. For the L treatment, NO3 concentrations in the drainage water exceeded the 10 mg N L?1 maximum contaminant level (MCL) established by the USEPA for drinking water only during the years that corn was grown. For the M and H treatments, NO3 concentrations exceeded the MCL in all years, regardless of crop grown. For all years, the NO3 mass loss in tile drainage water from the H treatment (48 kg N ha?1) was significantly greater than the mass losses from the M (35 kg N ha?1) and L (29 kg N ha?1) treatments, which were not significantly different. The economically optimum N fertilizer rate for corn was between 67 and 135 kg ha?1 in 1996 and 114 and 172 kg ha?1 in 1998, but the net N mass balance indicated that N was being mined from the soil at these N fertilizer levels and that the system would not be sustainable.
Date Issued
Number of Pages
Journal Title
Journal of Environmental Quality
Main Topic
Rights Holder
Minnesota Water Research Digital Library
Rights Management
Do Not Have Copyright Permission