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Fertilizer Management Effects on Nitrate Leaching and Indirect Nitrous Oxide Emissions in Irrigated Potato Production

Venterea, Rodney T., Hyatt, Charles R., Rosen, Carl J.
Journal of environmental quality 2011 v.40 no.4 pp. 1103
best management practices, cropping systems, emissions, emissions factor, environmental impact, fertilizers, growing season, irrigated farming, irrigation, labor, leaching, models, nitrates, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, nutrient management, potatoes, preplanting treatment, soil, split application, urea, water balance
Potato (L.) is a N-intensive crop, with high potential for nitrate (NO) leaching, which can contribute to both water contamination and indirect nitrous oxide (NO) emissions. Two approaches that have been considered for reducing N losses include conventional split application (CSA) of soluble fertilizers and single application of polymer-coated urea (PCU). The objectives of this study were to: (i) compare NO leaching using CSA and two PCUs (PCU–1 and PCU–2), which differed in their polymer formulations, and (ii) use measured NO leaching rates and published emissions factors to estimate indirect NO emissions. Averaged over three growing seasons (2007–2009), NO leaching rates were not significantly different among the three fertilizer treatments. Using previously reported direct NO emissions data from the same experiment, total direct plus indirect growing season NO emissions with PCU–1 were estimated to be 30 to 40% less than with CSA. However, PCU–1 also resulted in greater residual soil N after harvest in 2007 and greater soil–water NO in the spring following the 2008 growing season. These results provide evidence that single PCU applications for irrigated potato production do not increase growing season NO leaching compared with multiple split applications of soluble fertilizers, but have the potential to increase N losses after the growing season and into the following year. Estimates of indirect NO emissions ranged from 0.8 to 64% of direct emissions, depending on what value was assumed for the emission factor describing off-site conversion of NO to NO. Thus, our results also demonstrate how more robust models are needed to account for off-site conversion of NO to NO, since current emission factor models have an enormous degree of uncertainty.