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Combined controlled-released nitrogen fertilizers and deep placement effects of N leaching, rice yield and N recovery in machine-transplanted rice

Ke, Jian, He, Rongchuan, Hou, Pengfu, Ding, Chao, Ding, Yanfeng, Wang, Shaohua, Liu, Zhenghui, Tang, She, Ding, Chengqiang, Chen, Lin, Li, Ganghua
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2018 v.265 pp. 402-412
developmental stages, field experimentation, grain yield, groundwater contamination, leaching, nitrates, nitrogen, nitrogen content, polymer-coated urea, rice, soil, split application, sulfur-coated urea, surface water, tillering, urea, China
In the Taihu region of China, overuse of chemical nitrogen (N) fertilizer is often associated with low nitrogen recovery (NRE) and leads to serious groundwater pollution caused by N leaching losses. Controlled-released nitrogen fertilizers (CRNFs) and mechanized deep placement are promising alternatives to broadcasting urea to increase crop yield and NRE in machine-transplanted rice production. However, their interactions with regard to soil N status, N leaching and crop performance are unclear. A two-year (2015 and 2016) field experiment was conducted in a randomized complete block using two fertilization techniques (broadcast and deep placement by mechanical side-dressing fertilization) and three CRNFs (sulphur-coated urea (SCU), polymer-coated urea (PCU) and a bulk blended mixture (BBF)). Conventional high-yield fertilization (four split applications of urea at 216 kg N ha−1 (CK)) and 0–N treatments were established as controls. The results showed that the variation in NH4+-N concentration in the percolation and surface water varied across the different CRNFs, irrespective of the techniques used. NO3− -N concentration in the percolation water varied with water conditions in the field. Deep placement with CRNF correspondingly increased mineral N concentration in percolation at depths of 20 and 60 cm but reduced it in the surface water compared to that of the broadcast, although the benefits varied depending on the CRNF type and growth stage. Deep placement of SCU and PCU significantly increased N leaching and the mineral N in the 40–60 cm soil layer compared to that of the broadcast, due to the intensive N release during tillering and ineffective stage when the rice plant had a weak N uptake capability. Deep placement of SCU had the highest N leaching of 6.65 and 5.34 kg N ha−1 during 2015 and 2016. In contrast, BBF exhibited the lowest N leaching, regardless of fertilization placement, which apparently synchronized N release rates with rice N uptake patterns. In the present study, BBF obtained higher rice yields and N recoveries, without significantly enhancing mineral N leaching losses, when compared to CK. Our results suggest that the use of BBF is a promising alternative to a conventional high-yield fertilization practice, especially if combined with deep placement.