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Ammonia toxicity in aerobic rice: use of soil properties to predict ammonia volatilization following urea application and the adverse effects on germination

Haden, V.R., Xiang, J., Peng, S., Ketterings, Q.M., Hobbs, P., Duxbury, J.M.
European journal of soil science 2011 v.62 no.4 pp. 551-559
adverse effects, ammonia, buffering capacity, cation exchange capacity, rice, risk, seed germination, seeds, soil pH, soil texture, soil treatment, sowing, toxicity, urea, volatilization
Recent studies indicate that aerobic rice can suffer injury from ammonia toxicity when urea is applied at seeding. Urea application rate and soil properties influence the accumulation of ammonia in the vicinity of recently sown seeds and hence influence the risk of ammonia toxicity. The objectives of this study were to (i) evaluate the effects of urea rate on ammonia volatilization and subsequent seed germination for a range of soils, (ii) establish a critical level for ammonia toxicity in germinating rice seeds and (iii) assess how variation in soil properties influences ammonia accumulation. Volatilized ammonia and seed germination were measured in two micro-diffusion incubations using 15 soils to which urea was applied at five rates (0, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75 and 1.0 g N kg⁻¹ soil). Progressively larger urea rates increased volatilization, decreased germination and indicated a critical level for ammonia toxicity of approximately 7 mg N kg⁻¹. Stepwise regression of the first three principal components indicated that the initial pH and soil texture components influenced ammonia volatilization when no N was added. At the intermediate N rate all three components (initial pH, soil texture and pH buffering) affected ammonia volatilization. At the largest N rate, ammonia volatilization was driven by soil texture and pH buffering while the role of initial pH was insignificant. For soils with an initial pH > 6.0 the risk of excessive volatilization increased dramatically when clay content was <150 mg kg⁻¹, cation exchange capacity (CEC) was <10 cmolc kg⁻¹ and the buffer capacity (BC) was <2.5 cmolc kg⁻¹ pH⁻¹. These findings suggest that initial pH, CEC, soil texture and BC should all be used to assess the site-specific risks of urea-induced ammonia toxicity in aerobic rice.