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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 4, p. 1464-1473
    Received: July 2, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): mogasser@grr.ulaval.ca


Predicting Nitrate Leaching under Potato Crops Using Transfer Functions

  1. M. O. Gasser *,
  2. J. Caron,
  3. R. Lagacé and
  4. M. R. Laverdière
  1. Département des sols et de génie agroalimentaire, FSAA, Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada G1K 7P4


Nitrate leaching is a major issue in many cultivated soils. Models that predict the major processes involved at the field scale could be used to test and improve management practices. This study aims to evaluate a simple transfer function approach to predict nitrate leaching in sandy soils. A convective lognormal transfer (CLT) function is convoluted with functional equations simulating N mineralization, plant N uptake, N fertilizer dissolution, and nitrification at the soil surface to predict solute concentrations under potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) fields as a function of drainage water. Using this approach, nitrate flux concentrations measured in drainable lysimeters (1-m soil depth) were reasonably predicted from 29 Apr. 1996 to 3 Dec. 1996. With average application rates of 16.9 g m−2 of N fertilizer in potato crops, mean nitrate-leaching losses measured under potato were 8.5 g N m−2 Tuber N uptake averaged 9.7 g N m−2 and soil mineral N at start (spring) and end (fall) of N mass balance averaged 1.7 and 4.5 g N m−2, respectively. Soil N mineralization was estimated by difference (4.3 g N m−2 on average) and was small compared with N fertilization. Small nitrate flux concentrations at the beginning of the cropping season (May) resulted mainly from initial soil nitrate concentrations. Measured and predicted nitrate flux concentrations significantly increased at mid-season (July–August) following important drainage events coupled with complete dissolution and nitrification of N fertilizers, and declining N uptake by potato plants. Decreases in nitrate concentrations before the end of year (November–December) underlined the predominant effect of N fertilizers applied for the most part at planting acting as a pulse input of solute.

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Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.32:1464–1473.