Comparisons of methods for measuring the leaching of mineral nitrogen from arable land

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Webster, C. P., Shepherd, M. A., Goulding, K. W. T. and Lord, E. 1993. Comparisons of methods for measuring the leaching of mineral nitrogen from arable land. Journal of Soil Science. 44 (1), pp. 49-62.

AuthorsWebster, C. P., Shepherd, M. A., Goulding, K. W. T. and Lord, E.

Comparisons were made between 1988 and 1991 to evaluate three methods of estimating the leaching of mineral nitrogen (N) from unstructured freely draining sandy loam and loamy sand soils. The studies compared the drainage patterns and quantities of N (almost exclusively nitrate) leached from monolith lysimeters with those estimated from ceramic suction cups and soil core extracts. The latter two methods gave direct measurements of the mineral N concentrations in drainage. but required an estimate of the drainage volume calculated from meteorological observations and evapotranspiration equations to give total N leached. A bromide tracer was also used to confirm conclusions from nitrate leaching studies. There was a delay in the onset of drainage from free draining lysimeters because they lack the subsoil matric potential of field soils. However, total annual drainage measured by lysimeters or calculated from meteorological observations was similar, providing that return to field capacity was correctly identified in the field soil. During the first year there were discrepancies between methods which were attributed to soil disturbance during lysimeter and/or ceramic cup installation. In the second and third years of the experiment, estimates of N leaching losses using the lysimeters and ceramic cups were in good agreement. Nitrate concentrations in soil solution at a depth of 130 cm measured from soil core extracts were smaller than found by the other methods during the second year and the peak concentrations were significantly different (P<0.05). However, total overwinter N leached was not significantly different. Thus, while lysimeters and cups can be used to quantify leaching losses on unstructured, free draining soils if used correctly, the use of soil core extracts is questionable.

KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication1993
JournalJournal of Soil Science
Journal citation44 (1), pp. 49-62
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or code920
Project: 031285
British Society of Soil Science (BSSS)

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