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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Proper management of irrigation and nitrogen-application increases crop N-uptake efficiency and reduces nitrate leaching

ten Damme, Loraine; Jing, Shuxuan; Montcalm, Ashley Marie; Jepson, Maisie; Andersen, Mathias Neumann; Hansen, Elly Moller


Irrigation is, on one hand, expected to increase the risk of nitrate leaching through increased rates of percolation, but, on the other hand, enhances plant nutrient uptake and growth, thereby limiting the risk of leaching. To investigate this dichotomy, we analysed the effects of irrigation at three nitrogen (N)-application rates in spring barley (Hordeum distichum L., two experiments with 50, 100, and 150 kg N ha(-1)) and winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus L., one experiment with 50, 150, and 250 kg N ha(-1)) on a coarse sandy soil in Denmark in a humid climate, which facilitates nitrate leaching. Analyses comprised grain/seed dry matter yield, N-uptake, nitrogen use efficiency (partial nitrogen budget, PNB, and partial-factor productivity, PFP) and nitrate leaching. For both crops, increasing N-application without consideration of the crops' drought-stress responses lead to a relatively lower N-uptake in grain, lower yield, lower PNB and PFP and higher nitrate leaching, although responses were not proportionally to increasing N-application. The effect of irrigation at the lowest N-rates was limited. The non-irrigated treatments with the highest N-rates had a grain/seed yield of 3.2, 2.3 and 0.7 t ha(-1) and nitrate leaching rates of 64, 72 and 127 kg N ha(-1) compared to a grain/seed yield of 5.3, 5.0 and 2.6 kg N ha(-1) and nitrate leaching rates of 61, 42 and 85 kg N ha(-1) (for spring barley, spring barley and winter oilseed rape, respectively). These results show that synchronised management of both irrigation and N-application are essential for reducing the risk of nitrate leaching and to promote efficient crop N-uptake in periods of droughts.


Coarse sandy soil; dry matter yield; nitrogen allocation; nitrogen-fertiliser; spring barley; winter oilseed rape

Published in

Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B - Soil and Plant Science
2022, volume: 72, number: 1, pages: 913-922

Authors' information

Aarhus University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Jing, Shuxuan
Aarhus University
Montcalm, Ashley Marie
Aarhus University
Jepson, Maisie
Aarhus University
Andersen, Mathias Neumann
Aarhus University
Hansen, Elly Moller
Aarhus University

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science

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