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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 2, p. 590-597
    Received: June 4, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): grandall@umn.edu
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Nitrate Losses in Subsurface Drainage from a Corn–Soybean Rotation as Affected by Fall and Spring Application of Nitrogen and Nitrapyrin

  1. G. W. Randall * and
  2. J. A. Vetsch
  1. University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center, 35838 120th Street, Waseca, MN 56093-4521


Substantial amounts of NO3 from agricultural crop production systems on poorly drained soils can be transported to surface water via subsurface drainage. A field study was conducted from the fall of 1993 through 2000 on a tile-drained Canisteo clay loam soil (fine-loamy, mixed, superactive, calcareous, mesic Typic Endoaquoll) to determine the influence of fall vs. spring application of N and nitrapyrin [NP; 2-chloro-6-(trichloromethyl) pyridine] on NO3 losses from a corn (Zea mays L.)–soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation. Four anhydrous ammonia treatments (fall N, fall N + NP, spring preplant N, and spring N + NP) were replicated four times and applied at 135 kg N ha−1 for corn on individual drainage plots. Drainage occurred in all seven years. Seventy-one percent of the annual drainage and 75% of the annual NO3 loss occurred in April, May, and June. Fifty-four percent of the NO3 lost in the drainage occurred during the corn phase and 46% during the soybean phase. Annual flow-weighted NO3–N concentrations for the fall, fall + NP, spring, and spring + NP treatments averaged 14.3, 11.5, 10.7, and 11.3 mg L−1 during the corn phase but annual NO3–N concentrations were still ≥10 mg L−1 in three of six years for the spring preplant treatment. Averaged across the six rotation cycles, flow-normalized NO3–N losses ranked in the order: fall N > spring N + NP > fall N + NP > spring N. Under these conditions, NO3 losses in subsurface drainage from a corn–soybean rotation can be reduced 14% by spring N and 10% by late fall N + NP compared with fall-applied N. Nitrate losses were not appreciably reduced by adding NP to spring preplant N.

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