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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - DIVISION S-4—SOIL FERTILITY & PLANT NUTRITION

Soil pH Effects on Nitrification of Fall-Applied Anhydrous Ammonia


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 68 No. 2, p. 545-551
    Received: Mar 31, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): ablackmr@iastate.edu
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  1. Peter M. Kyverygaa,
  2. Alfred M. Blackmer *a,
  3. Jason W. Ellsworthb and
  4. Ramon Islac
  1. a Dep. of Agronomy, Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA 50011
    b Univ. of Idaho, Twin Falls Research and Extension Center, Twin Falls, ID 83303-1827
    c Agricultural Research Service, Government of Aragón, Zaragoza, Spain


Soil temperature at the time of application has been the primary factor used to predict rates of nitrification and assess the risks associated with losses of N applied in the fall as anhydrous ammonia in the Corn Belt. We report studies assessing the importance of soil pH as a factor affecting nitrification rates and losses of this N before corn (Zea Mays L.) begins rapid growth in June. Data were collected in a series of field studies conducted during 4 yr. Anhydrous ammonia was applied in the fall after soils had cooled to <8°C, and soils were sampled before corn plants emerged in the spring. Soil pH ranged from <6.0 to >7.5. Significant relationships between soil pH and percentage nitrification were observed each year. Means of measurements made in mid-April (when planting begins) indicated 89% nitrification of fertilizer N in soils having pH > 7.5 and 39% nitrification of this N in soils having pH < 6.0. The finding that soil pH influenced when nitrification occurred helps to explain why the effects of nitrification inhibitors have been variable in this region. Significant relationships between soil pH and recovery of fertilizer N as exchangeable NH4 + and NO3 were observed in years with above-average rainfall before samples were collected in April. The effects of soil pH on nitrification, therefore, influenced the amounts of NO3 lost by denitrification or leaching during spring rainfall. The observed effects of pH on nitrification rates suggest that economic and environmental benefits of delaying application of fertilizer N may be greater in higher-pH soils than in lower-pH soils.

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