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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 68 No. 3, p. 865-875
    Received: Apr 15, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): kevin.coleman@bbsrc.ac.uk
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Turnover of Nitrogen-15-Labeled Fertilizer in Old Grassland

  1. D. S. Jenkinson *,
  2. P. R. Poulton,
  3. A. E. Johnston and
  4. D. S. Powlson
  1. Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, UK


In this paper we follow the fate of single applications of 15N-labeled fertilizer to old grassland, over a period of nearly 20 yr. In 1980 and 1981, 15N-labeled N was applied to two of the treatments on the Park Grass Continuous Hay Experiment at Rothamsted, started in 1856. The labeled N was applied at the same rate (nominally 96 kg ha−1 yr−1) and in the same chemical form (NH4 or NO3) as the unlabeled N normally applied as fertilizer to the selected treatments. After 19 yr, 69.6% of the N applied in 1980 as 15NH4 had been harvested in successive cuts of herbage, with a further 16.5% remaining in the soil. For 15NO3, 64.3% had been harvested and 13.8% remained in the soil. The 15N data were then used to calculate annual inputs of nonfertilizer N, annual losses of N and N turnover times in old grassland, assuming that the selected treatments were under steady-state conditions. The annual input of N from nonfertilizer sources (rain, dry deposition, N fixation by leguminous components of the herbage, etc.) was large: 39 kg N ha−1 yr−1 for the NH4 treatment and 31 kg for the NO3 treatment. Leguminous plants made up <2% of the herbage in both the NH4 and NO3 treatments. The annual loss from the NH4 treatment was 19 kg N ha−1 yr−1 and 24 from the NO3 treatment. The gross turnover time of N in the root compartment (which included plant crowns) was 1.41 yr for the NH4 treatment and 0.42 yr for NO3 The gross turnover time of soil microbial N was 2.13 yr (NH4) and 1.83 yr (NO3): for humus N (i.e., soil N not in roots or microbial biomass) it was 181 yr (NH4) and 116 yr (NO3).

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