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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 2, p. 599-606
    Received: Nov 12, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): jnyamangara@agric.uz.ac.zw
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Fertilizer Use Efficiency and Nitrate Leaching in a Tropical Sandy Soil

  1. J. Nyamangara *a,
  2. L. F. Bergströmb,
  3. M. I. Pihaa and
  4. K. E. Gillera
  1. a Dep. of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, Univ. of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box MP167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
    b Division of Water Quality Management, Dep. of Soil Sciences, Swedish Univ. of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 7072, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden


Maize (Zea mays L.) production in the smallholder farming areas of Zimbabwe is based on both organic and mineral nutrient sources. A study was conducted to determine the effect of composted cattle manure, mineral N fertilizer, and their combinations on NO3 concentrations in leachate leaving the root zone and to establish N fertilization rates that minimize leaching. Maize was grown for three seasons (1996–1997, 1997–1998, and 1998–1999) in field lysimeters repacked with a coarse-grained sandy soil (Typic Kandiustalf). Leachate volumes ranged from 480 to 509 mm yr−1 (1395 mm rainfall) in 1996–1997, 296 to 335 mm yr−1 (840 mm rainfall) in 1997–1998, and 606 to 635 mm yr−1 (1387 mm rainfall) in 1998–1999. Mineral N fertilizer, especially the high rate (120 kg N ha−1), and manure plus mineral N fertilizer combinations resulted in high NO3 leachate concentrations (up to 34 mg N L−1) and NO3 losses (up to 56 kg N ha−1 yr−1) in 1996–1997, which represent both environmental and economic concerns. Although the leaching losses were relatively small in the other seasons, they are still of great significance in African smallholder farming where fertilizer is unaffordable for most farmers. Nitrate leaching from sole manure treatments was relatively low (average of less than 20 kg N ha−1 yr−1), whereas the crop uptake efficiency of mineral N fertilizer was enhanced by up to 26% when manure and mineral N fertilizer were applied in combination. The low manure (12.5 Mg ha−1) plus 60 kg N ha−1 fertilizer treatment was best in terms of maintaining dry matter yield and minimizing N leaching losses.

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Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.32:599–606.