British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Maintenance fertilizer research at Kaiser Resources Ltd. Fyles, Jim W. 1979

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Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 325 MAINTENANCE FERTILIZER RESEARCH AT KAISER RESOURCES LTD. Paper presented by: J.W. Fyles Department of Biology University of Victoria Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 327 MAINTENANCE FERTILIZER RESEARCH AT KAISER RESOURCES LTD. INTRODUCTION Research into the use of maintenance fertilization in operational reclama- tion at Kaiser Resources Ltd. has, over the past few years, centered on the following questions.  What application rate should be used to obtain opti- mum growth per kilogramme of fertilizer?  What combination of elements in the fertilizer should be used to obtain best results?  How many years should maintenance fertilization continue to ensure a self-sustaining cover of vegetation on reclaimed areas?  During 1978, fertilizer trials were established on two sites near Sparwood to investigate the first two of these questions.  Phosphorus requirements were of specific interest because of the high cost of phosphorus fertilizers in comparison to nitrogen fer- tilizer, which, because of its use in blasting operations, is readily available. METHODS Two study sites were located on reclaimed areas which supported a high cover of vegetation.  Both sites had received maintenance fertilizer for several years, with the latest application taking place several weeks before the initiation of the study.  The Harmer study area, at an elevation of approximately 2,000 metres, and representative of many high elevation reclaimed sites, was dominated by Orchardgrass, Timothy and Creeping Red Fescue.  The Erickson study area (elevation 1,500 metres) was dominated by Intermediate and Crested Wheatgrasses and Canada Bluegrass and is typical of many dry reclaimed areas at low elevation. Four levels each of urea and treble superphosphate yielded sixteen treat- ments which were randomly arrayed in treatment blocks prior to on—site layout.  Three replicate blocks were established on each site.  The details of each treatment are given in Table 1.  Block and treatment layout at each site are given in Figures 1 and 2. Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 328 TABLE 1 FERTILIZER TREATMENTS N      P205 46-0-0 0-45-0 Treatment No.                    Kilogram/hectare             Kilogram/hectare  1 0 0 0 0 2 28        0 61 0 3 56        0 122 0 4 112        0 243 0 5 0       56 0 124 6 28       56 61 124 7 56       56 122 124 8 112       56 243 124 9 0      112 0 248 10 28      112 61 248 11 56      112 122 148 12 112      112 243 248 13 0      224 0 496 14 28      224 61 496 15 56      224 122 496 16 112      224 234 496  Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 329    page blank in original Proceedings              Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 330 Treatments were evaluated in late August according to the dry weight of aerial biomass clipped from 50 centimetre square frames.  Two samples were clipped from each treatment.  The data were analysed using standard Analysis of Variance methods to evaluate the effect of nitrogen and phosphorus levels (fixed treatments) and site differences reflected in the three replicate blocks (random treatment).  In all analyses, significance was tested using an alpha level of 0.05. RESULTS The results of the analysis of the data obtained from the Erickson trials are given in Table 2.  Since all of the probabilities derived are greater than 0.05 it can be concluded that none of the factors tested had a significant effect on growth.  This conclusion is somewhat surprising because of the general belief that reclaimed areas are very nutrient defi- cient and require fertilization to support growth.  The observed results can, however, be explained in two ways.  Firstly, it is possible that, through previous maintenance fertilization and the residual effects of nutrient additions, the soil nutrient status has been raised to such a level as to be non-limiting to growth.  This does not seem to be a reaso- nable explanation, however, since fertilization of even highly fertile agricultural soils will produce increased crop production and it is unli- kely that the soils of the study site would have higher fertility.  A more plausible explanation would be that although the nutrient levels in the soil are low, it may be the lack of moisture on the site which is the limiting factor.  This is the most likely explanation of the observed results even though the summer of 1978 was not particularly dry.  In any case, it is apparent that fertilization of dry, low elevation sites does not produce the desired results of increasing vegetative production and is therefore not a viable investment of reclamation dollars. The results of the analysis of data from the Harmer site are given in Table 3.  In this analysis two of the sources of variation proved signifi- cant. Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 331 ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE OF ERICKSON FERTILIZER DATA SOURCE               DP             F P         % VAR  N                    3           0.26 0.85 P                    3           1.82 0.24 REP                  2           0.64 0.53 N*P                  9           1.92 0.11 N*REP                 6            1.77 0.13 P*REP                6           0.64 0.70 N*P*REP               18            0.72 0.77 TABLE 3 ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE OF HARMER FERTILIZER DATA SOURCE                DF             F P          % VAR N                     3           2.30 0.177 P                     3           2.87 0.162 REP                  2          8.40 0.001        5.770 N*P                  9          1.29 0.306 N*REP                 6           1.72 0.134 P*REP                6          2.19 0.060 N*P*REP               18           5.69 0.000       35.182 TABLE 2 Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 332 The differences between replicate blocks (REP) accounted for almost six per cent of the variation while the three way interaction between nitrogen and phosphorus levels and replicate block accounted for approximately thirty-five per cent of the variation.  These data suggest that the soil condition varied greatly among replicate blocks.  To eliminate this variation and to gain a better understanding of the three way interaction the data from each replicate block were analysed separately as shown in Table 4.  From these results it can be seen that both nitrogen and phosphorus had a significant influence on growth but that the effect varied from one replicate to the next.  In Replicate 1, the levels of both nutrients and their interaction were significant while in Replicate 2, phosphorus was non-significant and in Replicate 3 nitrogen was non-significant. CONCLUSIONS In relation to the original objectives of the study, therefore, it can be concluded that, in most areas, phosphorus is a required fertilizer component. Unfortunately, further analysis could not determine the optimum application rate of either nutrient.  Because of their inconclusive nature, these analyses have not been included in this paper. Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from the analysis of the Harmer data is in regard to the high variability in the soils of the study site.  Bearing in mind that the blocks were placed less than three metres apart, this gross variation has significant ramifications toward present research and management practices.  At the outset of the study it was hoped that an  overall fertilization strategy could be devised for application to all elevation sites.  In reality, however, a different strategy would be required to satisfy the requirement of each replicate block. When extended to include the numerous hectares of reclaimed areas it becomes obvious, than an accurate, overall fertilization strategy is an impossibility.  Instead, it appears that the best approach may well be the present "seat of the pants" method in which a complete fertilizer is Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 333 TABLE 4 ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE OF HARMER FERTILIZER DATA BY REPLICATE SOURCE       DF F J          % VAR REP 1       N          3 6.29 0.005       20.055  P        3 5.52 0.009       17.600  N*P       9 4.74 0.003       45.327 REP 2       N          3 4.35 0.020       19.961  P         3 1.22 0.336  N*P        9 3.63 0.012       49.998 REP 3       N          3 0.19 0.905   P         3 4.41 0.019       12.109  N*P        9 8.83 0.000       72.740 Proceedings of the 3rd Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1979. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation 334 applied at some arbitrary rate with repeated application when necessary. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Kaiser Resources Ltd. wishes to gratefully acknowledge the Cominco LCd. for supplying the fertilizer and experimental design for this study.

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