Many nitrogen fertilizer studies evaluate the overall effect of a treatment on end-of-season measurements such as grain yield or cumulative N losses. A stable isotope approach is necessary to follow and quantify the fate of fertilizer derived N (FDN) through the soil-crop system. The purpose of this paper is to describe a small-plot research design utilizing non-confined15N enriched microplots for multiple soil and plant sampling events over two growing seasons and provide sample collection, handling, and processing protocols for total15N analysis. The methods were demonstrated using a replicated study from south-central Minnesota planted to corn (Zea mays L.). Each treatment consisted of six corn rows (76 cm row-spacing) 15.2 m long with a microplot (2.4 m by 3.8 m) embedded at one end. Fertilizer-grade urea was applied at 135 kg N∙ha-1 at planting, while the microplot received urea enriched to 5 atom %15N. Soil and plant samples were taken several times throughout the growing season, taking care to minimize cross-contamination by using separate tools and physically separating unenriched and enriched samples during all procedures. Soil and plant samples were dried, ground to pass through a 2 mm screen, and then ground to a flourlike consistency using a roller jar mill. Tracer studies require additional planning, sample processing time and manual labor, and incur higher costs for15N enriched materials and sample analysis than traditional N studies. However, using the mass balance approach, tracer studies with multiple in-season sampling events allow the researcher to estimate FDN distribution through the soil-crop system and estimate unaccounted-for FDN from the system.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors acknowledge the support of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council, the Hueg-Harrison Fellowship, and the Minnesota's Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) Fellowship.
© 2020 Journal of Visualized Experiments.
- Environmental Sciences
- Fertilizer derived nitrogen
- Fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency
- Isotope sample preparation
- Issue 159
- Labeled N
- N enriched urea
- N isotope
- Soil derived nitrogen