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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Lysimeter deep N fertilizer placement reduced leaching and improved N use efficiency

Rychel, Katrin; Meurer, Katharina H. E.; Getahun, Gizachew Tarekegn; Bergstrom, Lars; Kirchmann, Holger; Katterer, Thomas


Deep fertilization has been tested widely for nitrogen (N) use efficiency but there is little evidence of its impact on N leaching and the interplay between climate factors and crop N use. In this study, we tested the effect of three fertilizer N placements on leaching, crop growth, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a lysimeter experiment over three consecutive years with spring-sown cereals (S1, S2, and S3). Leaching was additionally monitored in an 11-month fallow period (F1) preceding S1 and a 15-month fallow period (F2) following S3. In addition to a control with no N fertilizer (Control), 100 kg N ha(-1) year(-1) of ammonium nitrate was placed at 0.2 m (Deep), 0.07 m (Shallow), or halved between 0.07 m and 0.2 m (Mixed). Deep reduced leachate amount in each cropping period, with significant reductions (p < 0.05) in the drought year (S2) and cumulatively for S1-S3. Overall, Deep reduced leaching by 22, 25 and 34% compared to Shallow, Mixed and Control, respectively. Deep and Mixed reduced N leaching across S1-S3 compared with Shallow, but Deep further reduced N loads by 15% compared to Mixed and was significantly lowest (p < 0.05) among the fertilized treatments in S1 and S2. In S3, Deep increased grain yields by 28 and 22% compared to Shallow and Mixed, respectively, while nearly doubling the agronomic efficiency of N (AE(N)) and the recovery efficiency of N (REN). Deep N placement is a promising mitigation practice that should be further investigated.


Deep N fertilization; Drought; Fertilizer placement; Lysimeter; Nitrate leaching

Published in

Nutrient cycling in agroecosystems
2023, Volume: 126, number: 2, pages: 213-228
Publisher: SPRINGER