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Soil, land care and environmental research
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Effect of nitrogen fertiliser management on soil mineral nitrogen, nitrous oxide losses, yield and nitrogen uptake of wheat growing in waterlogging-prone soils of south-eastern Australia

Robert H. Harris A B E , Roger D. Armstrong C D , Ashley J. Wallace C and Oxana N. Belyaeva A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Hamilton Centre, PO Box 105, Hamilton, Vic. 3300, Australia.

B Present address: 70 Martin St, Dunkeld, Vic. 3294, Australia.

C Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Horsham Centre, PO Box 260 Horsham, Vic. 3400, Australia.

D Department of Animal, Plant and Soil Sciences, LaTrobe University, Bundoora, Vic. 3086, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: rob.h.harris74@gmail.com

Soil Research 54(5) 619-633 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR15292
Submitted: 9 October 2015  Accepted: 15 February 2016   Published: 11 July 2016

Abstract

Some of the highest nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions arising from Australian agriculture have been recorded in the high-rainfall zone (>650 mm) of south-western Victoria. Understanding the association between nitrogen (N) management, crop N uptake and gaseous losses is needed to reduce N2O losses. Field experiments studied the effect of N-fertiliser management on N2O emissions, crop N uptake and crop productivity at Hamilton and Tarrington in south-western Victoria. Management included five rates of urea-N fertiliser (0, 25, 50, 100 and 200 kg N/ha) topdressed at either mid-tillering or first-node growth stages of wheat development; urea-N deep-banded 10 cm below the seed at sowing; and urea coated with the nitrification inhibitor DMPP (3,4-dimethylpyrazole phosphate) was either topdressed or deep-banded. Pre-sowing soil profile chemical properties were determined before static chambers were installed to measure N2O losses, accompanied by wheat dry matter, crop N uptake and grain yield and quality, to measure treatment differences. N2O losses increased significantly (P ≤ 0.10) where urea-N was deep-banded, resulting in a 2–2.5-fold increase in losses, compared with the nil N control. The high N2O losses from deep-banding N appeared to result from winter waterlogging triggering gaseous or drainage losses before wheat reached peak growth and demand for N in spring. Despite the high losses from deep-banding urea-N, grain yields were largely unaffected by N management, except at Hamilton in 2012, where topdressed wheat growing in a soil with large reserves of NO3-N, and later experiencing post-anthesis water deficit resulted in a negative grain yield response. All sites had high concentrations of soil organic carbon (>2.8%) and the potential for large amounts of N mineralisation throughout the growing season to supplement low N fertiliser recovery. However, topdressed urea-N resulted in significant enrichment of crop tissue (P ≤ 0.004) and associated positive response in grain protein compared with the deep banded and nil N treatments. 3,4-Dimethylpyrazole phosphate (DMPP)-coated urea provided no additional benefit to crop yield over conventional urea N. Our study highlighted the importance of synchronising N supply with peak crop N demand to encourage greater synthetic N uptake and mitigation of N2O losses.

Additional keywords: crop nitrogen recovery, 3,4-dimethylpyrazole phosphate, nitrification inhibitor, raised bed, static chamber, water-filled pore space, Triticum aestivum.


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