UBC Theses and Dissertations
Improving nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for arable crops in the Lower Fraser Valley Weinberg, Naomi Hélène
A two year field study located in Delta Municipality, British Columbia, was conducted to investigate the possible improvement of nitrogen (N) fertilizer recommendations for arable crops in the Lower Fraser Valley (LFV). After reviewing current N fertilizer recommendation systems in other humid regions, the approach taken in the study was to determine the applicability of a spring soil test and/or a N Index system for the LFV region. The project, which used sweet corn (Zea Mays saccharata) as the trial crop, consisted of two interconnected parts: 1) A 'Replicated Fertilizer Response Trial' which aimed to; a) Monitor soil N0₃-N and NH₄-N during spring to a depth of 80cm, using intervals of 0-20, 20-50, and 50-80cm. b) Investigate yield response and N uptake efficiency at four different rates of sidedress applied urea, 0, 50, 100 and 200 kg ha⁻¹ N. c) Compare the effectiveness of urea applied broadcast preplant, and applied by sidedressing, when the crop was approximately 30cm tall. 2) A 'Multifarm Survey' at 28 locations, comparing plots sidedressed with 135 kg ha⁻¹ N, to control plots containing only starter N. The aim of this survey vas to establish the range of N supplying capacities in some LFV soils and relate these capacities to other soil properties and site history. Monitoring mineral N in the soil demonstrated that soil N0₃-N increased during the spring, reaching a peak 5-6 weeks after planting. Maximum N0₃-N levels in the 0-80cm profile were 90 and 135 kg ha⁻¹ in 1984 and 1985 respectively. NH₄-N levels tended to be low compared to NO₃-N. As a proportion of total mineral N, NH₄-N decreased from approximately 25% at the beginning of May, to between 10 and 15% by mid June. Large amounts of spatial and temporal variability in both N0₃-N and NH₄-N were observed on the two sites studied. The difference in magnitude of mineral N between the years was due to a large number of site and weather factors which could not be separated. No significant differences in corn yield or crop N content were found between any of the four fertilizer treatments in the Replicated Response Trial. Similarly, no significant differences were found in the comparison of urea N applied by broadcasting before planting and urea N applied by sidedressing. Two reasons for this lack of response were suggested, one, that the soil plus starter N provided sufficient N for the crop's needs, and two, that the fertilizing techniques were inefficient considering the soil and weather conditions. The Multifarm Survey provided the greatest amount of information relevant to the project's objectives. It showed that the range of soil types and cropping regimes on corn fields in Delta Municipality was too narrow to have a direct influence on N supplied by the soil. Soil N supplying capacity was shown to be weakly related to organic matter, the study results suggested that a knowledge of site history was necessary before this relationship could be assumed to be positive. Such findings favoured the implementation of a spring soil test rather than a N Index system. Various approaches to estimating N fertilizer requirements using a spring soil sample were examined. In conclusion, the project showed that substantial amounts of N vere made available by the soil and that these should be taken into consideration when fertilizer recommendations are made. The study suggested that in a small agricultural region such as Delta Municipality, spring soil N0₃-N appeared to be sufficiently well correlated with total soil plus crop nitrogen to warrant the further investigation of a soil test for N. This test, for corn, should be as close as possible to sidedress time and the ideal sampling depth would be to 80cm. Anomalous sites with adverse soil conditions, such as poor drainage, marine influences, low pH or compaction should not be included in the test.