Mineral nitrogen dynamics in irrigated rice-wheat system under different irrigation and establishment methods and residue levels in arid drylands of Central Asia

Posted by Carelia Juarez on , in Journal Articles

Published in European Journal of Agronomy 47 : 65-76, 2013

Krishna Prasad Devkota, Ahmad Manschadi, John P.A. Lamers, Mina Devkota, and Paul L.G. Viek

Increasing water shortage and low water productivity in the irrigated drylands of Central Asia are compelling farmers to develop and adopt resource conservation technologies. Nitrogen (N) is the key nutrient for crop production in rice–wheat cropping systems in this region. Nitrogen dynamics of dry seeded rice-(aerobic, anaerobic) planted in rotation with wheat (well drained, aerobic) can differ greatly from those of conventional rice cultivation. Soil mineral N dynamics in flood irrigated rice has extensively been studied and understood, however, the impact of establishment method and residue levels on this dynamics remains unknown. Experiments on resource conservation technologies were conducted between 2008 and 2009 to assess the impact of two establishment methods (beds and flats) in combination with three (R0, R50 and R100) residue levels and two irrigation modes (alternate wet and dry (AWD) irrigation (all zero till), and a continuously flooded conventional tillage (dry tillage)) with water seeded rice (WSR) on the mineral N dynamics under dry seeded rice (DSR)-surface seeded wheat systems. N balance from the top 80 cm soil layers indicated that 32–70% (122–236 kg ha−1) mineral N was unaccounted (lost) during rice cropping. The amount of unaccounted mineral N was affected by the irrigation method. Residue retention increased (p < 0.001) the unaccounted mineral N content by 38%. With AWD irrigation, the N loss was not different among dry seeded rice in flat (DSRF), dry seeded rice in bed (DSRB), and conventional tillage WSR. Under different irrigation, establishment methods and residue levels, unaccounted mineral N was mainly affected by plant N uptake and soil mineral N content. Major amounts (43–58%) of unaccounted mineral N from DSR field occurred between seeding and panicle initiation (PI). During the entire rice and wheat growing seasons, NH4single bondN consistently remained at very high levels, while, NO3single bondN remained at very low levels in all treatments. In rice, the irrigation method affected NH4single bondN content. Effect of residue retention and establishment methods were not significant on NH4single bondN and NO3single bondN dynamics in both crops and years. Further evidence of the continuously fluctuating water filled pore spaces (WFPS) of 64% and the microbial aerobic activity of 93% at the top 10 cm soil surface during rice growing season indicates soil in the DSR treatments was under frequent aerobic–anaerobic transformation, a conditions very conducive for higher amounts of N loss. In DSR treatments, the losses appeared to be caused by a combination of denitrification, leaching and N immobilization. When intending to use a DSR management strategies need to be developed for appropriate N management, irrigation scheduling, and residue use to increase mineral N availability and uptake before this practices can be recommended.

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