26 Aug 2022
26 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Impact of contrasting fertilizer technologies on N dynamics from sub-surface bands of ‘pure’ or blended fertilizer applications

Chelsea K. Janke1 and Michael J. Bell1,2 Chelsea K. Janke and Michael J. Bell
  • 1School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4072, Australia
  • 2Centre for Crop Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, Gatton, 4343, Australia

Abstract. Enhanced efficiency fertilizer (EEF) technologies that employ product coatings to delay nitrogen (N) release or are chemically stabilized to inhibit key steps of N transformations in soil, offer potential for improving N use efficiency (NUE) in agricultural systems. However, the dynamics of N release and transformation from single technologies may result in a spatial or temporal mismatch of N supply and demand during a growing season. This may be overcome by use of blends of different technologies, provided the reduction in the concentration of stabilizing products does not reduce effectiveness. Laboratory incubations quantified the N dynamics around fertilizer bands of polymer-coated urea (PCU) and nitrification inhibited (NI) urea and varying blends of these technologies, and referenced this against conventional urea and biodegradable, plant oil-coated urea (POCU) applied at the same rates in two contrasting soils over 60 days. Blends of NI-urea and PCU typically resulted in N concentrations and distribution that were intermediate to that of the constituent products in unblended applications. Changes in the proportions of each product were mirrored by urea-N concentrations around the bands in both soils, while the proportions of NI-urea in each blend were only related to the extent of nitrification inhibition in the Vertisol. A proportion of the POCU granules burst during initial water imbibition, resulting in initially higher mineral N concentrations cf. PCU. However, both CRFs delayed N release and generation of NO3-N relative to granular urea, and mineral N distribution was similar within each soil. Soil type had a significant impact on banded N dynamics. Where there was little effect of N-fertilizer treatment on NO3-N production in the Ferralsol, the greater impedance of solutes in the Vertisol contributed to a significant inhibitory effect of NI-urea on nitrification in both pure and blended DMPP-urea treatments. Using NO3-N production as a benchmark for the risk of environmental loss, the efficacy of fertilizer treatments in this soil was of: DMPP-urea-PCU blends (higher ratio of PCU may offer small but insignificant benefit) > DMPP-urea = PCU > urea. These findings highlight the importance of soil properties in determining the N dynamics from different banded EEF products. Insights into the efficacy of biodegradable alternatives to polymer coatings and the efficacy of blended EEF products can improve the reliability of N supply while reducing environmental impacts, therefore offering greater opportunities to sustainably improve fertilizer NUE in cropping systems.

Chelsea K. Janke and Michael J. Bell

Status: open (until 27 Oct 2022)

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Chelsea K. Janke and Michael J. Bell

Chelsea K. Janke and Michael J. Bell


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Short summary
Fertilizer blends of controlled-release and stabilized nitrogen (N) demonstrated temporal N dynamics intermediate of unblended fertilizers. Soil characteristics had a significant impact on N dynamics, where greater impedance of solutes contributed to significant inhibition of nitrification in stabilized-N treatments. These findings highlight the importance of soil properties. Insights can improve N supply predictability, offering opportunities to improve N use efficiency in cropping systems.