UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Nitrogen Dynamics Following Incorporation of 3-Year Old Grassland Set-Asides in the Fraser River Delta of British Columbia Walji, Khalil; Krzic, Maja; Bondar, Drew; Smukler, Sean

Abstract

Short-term grassland set-asides (GLSA) have been incorporated into intensive annual crop rotations to improve soil quality. The legacy of the GLSA to subsequent annual crops, however, is not well understood. The objective of this study was to determine the impacts of 3-year-old GLSA on nitrogen (N) dynamics and the yield of the subsequent cash crop. A regional analysis was conducted over two years, utilizing eight production fields transitioning from GLSA, paired with fields in continuous annual crop rotation (ACR) with matching management. A controlled plot-scale experiment was also conducted on a single 3-year-old GLSA, comparing fertilizer types, rates, and timing of incorporation. In each experiment, soils were sampled every 10–14 days for ammonium (NH₄⁺-N) and nitrate (NO₃⁻-N), along with ion probes, installed near the rooting zone to track plant available nitrogen (PAN) throughout the season. The results from the regional analysis are confounding, in 2015 showing that GLSA supplied an additional 18 kg PAN ha⁻¹ compared to ACR but showed no PAN benefits in 2016. The controlled plot-scale experiment highlighted the importance of fertilizer type to subsequent PAN, showing synthetic treatments consistently supplied more PAN than organic. The results from this study suggest that 3-year-old GLSAs can potentially improve PAN to subsequent crops depending on how they are managed.

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