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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Nitrogen Leaching from Soils Cropped with Sugarcane under the Humid Tropical Climate of Mauritius, Indian Ocean1


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 13 No. 3, p. 471-474
    Received: Oct 11, 1983

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  1. K. F. Ng Kee Kwong and
  2. J. Deville2



The significance of N leaching in the N economy of sugarcane (Saccharum sp.) and as a hazard to the environment in Mauritius was not known with certainty. A lysimeter study was therefore initiated to investigate leaching of N from soils planted with hybrid sugarcane and fertilized with either 15N-labeled (NH4)2SO4 or NaNO3 at the rate of 100 kg N/ha. The results obtained showed that the amount of N leached by any one rainfall of sufficient magnitude to give rise to percolates depended more upon the duration and intensity of the drying step preceeding the rainfall than on the leachate volume. In consequence, N leached from any one soil by an outburst of rain was greater at the drier site (Reduit, 1550 mm rain/yr) than at the wet site (Belle Rive, 3700 mm rain/yr). However, the cumulative N loss over 1 yr was not invariably higher at Reduit than at Belle Rive because frequent though shorter and less intense drying and wetting cycles may be cumulatively just as effective in mobilizing soil N than the less frequent but longer and more intense drying at Reduit. In addition, at both sites more N was leached from the soil with a higher organic matter content.

Though the soils were able to retain NO3 by adsorption, the mobility of NO3 in the soils used was primarily reduced by biological immobilization. As a result, in spite of an annual rainfall exceeding 3000 mm at Belle Rive, N leaching was not more extensive than that reported for soils of the temperate regions. Instead, cations such as K+ and Ca2+ were more readily leached than N. This draws attention to the fact that the need for management practices to attenuate leaching losses of cations from soils located in a climatic environment similar to that of Mauritius may be more acute than the need for measures to minimize N leaching.

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