Urea is the dominant form of nitrogen (N) fertilizer used globally. Various additives have been designed for co-application with urea to improve performance of N-intensive crops including potato (Solanum tuberosum L.). Few if any studies have compared ‘inhibitor’ additives with ‘biostimulants’ designed to enhance plant growth or microbial activity. Over two potato growing seasons (2015–2016) in an irrigated loamy sand in Minnesota, we quantified agronomic performance and N losses as both nitrate (NO3 −) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in treatments receiving urea, with and without additives including: nitrification inhibitors dicyandiamide (DCD) or 3,4-dimethylpyrazole phosphate (DMPP), alone or combined with the urease inhibitor N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT), or a biostimulant containing N-fixing microbes (NFM) by itself or combined with an amino acid blend (AAB). The biostimulants produced modest (˜10%) improvements in tuber yield, under limited conditions, compared to urea alone. However, NFM increased N2O emissions by 32–56%, in contrast to the inhibitors, which decreased N2O emissions by 42–75%. Compared to urea alone, the inhibitors tended to increase soil ammonium and decrease soil NO3 − concentrations; however, no differences in soil inorganic N in the upper 0.3 m of the profile were observed with the biostimulants. During the growing season with greater rates of soil water flux (2015), none of the inhibitors decreased NO3 − leaching, while NFM increased NO3 − leaching by 23%. When AAB was combined with NFM, reactive N losses did not differ from the urea-only treatment. Biostimulants can have unintended impacts on reactive N losses and should be used with caution pending additional study to better understand their effects on biological processes, and to quantify their performance in other agro-ecosystems.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of M. Dolan, M. McNearney, R. Faber and R. Lozano. We would also like to thank Dr. Nils Berger of Eurochem Agro for his contributions during the planning of this research project. This work was supported by a grant from Eurochem Agro (Proj.00049428) .
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.
Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Nitrate leaching
- Nitrification and urease inhibitors
- Nitrogen-fixing bacteria
- Nitrous oxide