Manure applications elevate nitrogen accumulation and loss

January 4, 2016, American Society for Horticultural Science
Researchers in China studied the co-application of manures and chemical nitrogen fertilizers in high-input greenhouses. They said the environmental risks may outweigh the benefits. Credit: Zhi Quan.

Nitrogen (N) is an essential nutrient for plant growth, and nitrogen fertilization - including the application of manures - is a major management strategy in agriculture across the globe. However, the overuse and misuse of manures has resulted in the accumulation of surplus N in soil and its eventual migration to soil layers and groundwater. The authors of a new study found that the environmental risks of manure applications in high-input greenhouse environments may outweigh the benefits, and recommend that the role of manures be reexamined.

The study, published in the November 2015 issue of HortScience, reports on a 3-year experiment conducted in greenhouse rotationally planted with cucumber or tomato and lettuce with and without manures. Scientists investigated the spatial (vertical) and temporal dynamics of nitrate, extractable organic nitrogen (EON), and total nitrogen in soil, and estimated the leaching-dominated N loss based on N balance in soil.

Results showed that application of manures slowed acidification but accelerated salinization of the fertile greenhouse soil, and did not significantly enhance the aboveground fresh biomass and biomass N in most of the vegetable seasons during the 3-year experiment. The experiments also indicated that high-rate application of manures resulted in high accumulation of not only nonextractable N but also leachable N (including nitrate and EON), consequently intensifying leaching-dominated N loss. "Our study showed that enhanced accumulation of mobile N induced by excessive manure input could exceed the need of plant uptake but be subject to downward migration and leaching-dominated loss," the authors wrote.

The researchers recommended that the role of manures in high-input agricultural ecosystems be reexamined to balance the economic benefit and the of enhanced loss.

Explore further: Size does not always matter for root systems

More information: HortScience, … /50/11/1688.abstract

Related Stories

Size does not always matter for root systems

December 14, 2015

Scientists will dramatically change the direction of their breeding efforts to improve nitrogen uptake by wheat, after the release of findings suggesting wheat genotypes with smaller root systems might be better suited to ...

Tracking phosphorus runoff from livestock manure

June 14, 2010

Nutrient runoff from livestock manure is a common source of agricultural pollution. Looking for an uncommon solution, a team of scientists has developed an application of rare earth elements to control and track runoff phosphorus ...

Team studies diversity among nitrogen-fixing plants

June 16, 2015

Researchers at Chapman University and Columbia University have published a study in Nature Plants this month, called "Diversity of nitrogen fixation strategies in Mediterranean legumes." The recently published research focuses ...

Soil nutrient management for organic production

December 3, 2010

Organic producers are faced with somewhat different challenges in maintaining their soil nutrient levels than are conventional producers. The new Montana State University Extension bulletin Soil Nutrient Management on Organic ...

Lower nitrogen losses with perennial biofuel crops

January 10, 2013

Perennial biofuel crops such as miscanthus, whose high yields have led them to be considered an eventual alternative to corn in producing ethanol, are now shown to have another beneficial characteristic–the ability to reduce ...

Recommended for you

Rainfall's natural variation hides climate change signal

February 22, 2018

New research from The Australian National University (ANU) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science suggests natural rainfall variation is so great that it could take a human lifetime for significant climate ...

Seasonal patterns in the Amazon explained

February 22, 2018

Environmental scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have led an international collaboration to improve satellite observations of tropical forests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 04, 2016
Mennonite and Amish Natural Utilization of Resources Enterprises (M.A.N.U.R.E.) has disproven your thesis. The recycling of animal wastes has resulted in a continuous improvement of soils and is shown to be economically sustainable for agricultural applications of many kinds. If you want proof, call 1-800-328-7448 and ask for Levi.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.