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Nitrogen Dynamics in Irrigated Corn: Soil-Plant Nitrogen and Atmospheric Ammonia Transport

Harper, Lowry A., Sharpe, Ronald R.
Agronomy journal 1995 v.87 no.4 pp. 669-675
Zea mays, ammonia, biogeochemical cycles, atmosphere, volatilization, gas exchange, losses from soil, nitrous oxide, environmental factors
Ammonia transport in cropping systems can affect atmospheric pollution, soil-plant N relationships, and crop N-use efficiency. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the N dynamics of a corn (L., Pioneer hybrid 3379) cropping system and determine the effect of NHs transport and crop NH compensation point on N relations in the crop. Soil and plant N measurements were made during the growing season along with plant-atmosphere NH transport using flux-gradient micrometeorological techniques. The crop generally emitted NH throughout the season when the atmospheric NH concentrations were near background levels. During periods of high atmospheric NHs concentrations, the crop absorbed significant amounts of NHs from the atmosphere. Net seasonal NH transport was determined to be a small loss, based on the number of measurement periods throughout the growing season; however, N isotope studies in a nearby field estimated significant NH losses. Nitrogen isotope studies cannot account for the substitution of NH absorbed from the atmosphere for volatilized NH. These results indicate that care must be taken when using N isotopes to evaluate N losses from cropping systems when plants are actively growing. Nitrous oxide flux was measured late in the cropping season, but showed small denitrification losses during the measurement period. The crop NH compensation point varied during the time of day and with respect to soil-plant-atmosphere influence. Net NH transport accounted for little of the N lost from this cropping system.