Nitrogen (N) fertilization potentially affects soil N mineralization and leaching, and can enhance NH3 volatilization, thus impacting crop production. A fertilizer experiment with five levels of N addition (0, 79, 147, 215 and 375 kg N ha-1) was performed in 2009 and 2010 in a maize field in Huanghuaihai region, China, where > 300 kg N ha-1 has been routinely applied to soil during maize growth period of 120 days. Responses of net N mineralization, inorganic N flux (0–10cm), NH3 volatilization, and maize yield to N fertilization were measured. During the growth period, net N mineralization and nitrification varied seasonally, with higher rates occurring in August and coinciding with the R1 stage of maize growth. Soil NO3---N contributed to more than 60% of inorganic N flux during maize growth. Cumulative NH3 volatilization increased with N additions, with total NH3 volatilization during maize growth accounting for about 4% of added N. Relative to the control, mean maize yield in the fertilizer treatments increased by 17% and 20% in 2009 and 2010, respectively. However, grain yield, aboveground biomass, and plant N accumulation did not increase with added N at levels > 215 kg N ha-1. These results suggest that the current N rate of 300 kg N ha-1 is not only excessive, but also reduces fertilizer efficacy and may contribute to environmental problems such as global warming and eutrophication of ground water and streams.
Zhang X, Q Wang, J Xu, FS Gilliam, N Tremblay, and C Li. 2015. In situ nitrogen mineralization, nitrification, and ammonia volatilization in maize field fertilized with urea in Huanghuaihai Region of Northern China. PLoS ONE 10(1): e0115649.