Effects of drip fertigation of Nh 4 -N and P on soil pH and cation leaching

Parchomchuk, P.; Neilsen, G.H.; Hogue, E.J.

Canadian Journal of Soil Science 73(2): 157-164


ISSN/ISBN: 0008-4271
DOI: 10.4141/cjss93-018
Accession: 068495286

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Mixtures of ammonium nitrate and ammonium polyphosphate fertilizers were used to drip fertigate Summerland McIntosh apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh.) grown on M.9 rootstocks in gravelly sandy loam. Levels of N corresponding to 25 and 50% of the recommended broadcast rate (23.5 and 47.0 g tree−1, respectively) and three levels of P (0, 17.5 and 35.0 g tree−1) were applied in a factorial randomized complete block design. Soil acidification began within 1 yr in a zone extending approximately 60 cm vertically and horizontally from the drip source. Acidification was most severe at 20–30 cm directly beneath the emitter where the soil pH decreased from 5.8 to 4.5 after 1 yr and to 3.7 after three seasons of fertigation. Rate and magnitude of pH decline were equal for both rates of N and acidification was not enhanced by the simultaneous addition of P. Calcium, Mg and K were leached to the periphery of the acidified zone. The rapid displacement of K may be of concern, particularly when NH4 forms of N are drip-fertigated in coarse-textured soils with marginal K levels. Key words: Fertigation, soil acidification, cation leaching, nitrogen fertilizer