Effects of a Control Release Nitrogen Fertilizer and Thinning on the Nitrogen Dynamics of a Mid-Rotation Loblolly Pine Stand in the Piedmont of Virginia
Elliot, James Robertson
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Nitrogen deficiency is characteristic of many mid-rotation loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantations in the Piedmont region of the southeastern USA. Fertilization with urea is the most common method used to correct this deficiency. Previous studies show that urea fertilization produces a rapid pulse of available nitrogen (N) with only a portion being utilized by plantation trees. Controlled release fertilizers release available N more slowly over a longer period of time and therefore may result in greater uptake efficiency. The objective of this study was to compare NitroformÂ®, a urea-formaldehyde controlled release N fertilizer versus urea and a control by measuring the effects of the two fertilizer treatments on N availability and loss as: total KCl extractable-N, total ion exchange membrane-N (IEM-N), N mineralization, and N volatilization, in a mid-rotation loblolly pine plantation in the Piedmont of Virginia. In addition, mid-summer and mid-winter fertilizations were compared to assess fertilizer uptake as a function of season. After the summer fertilization, Nitroform® significantly increased total KCl-extractable N, IEM-N, and N mineralization for two to three months over urea and the control. Three hundred times more N volatilized from urea than from controlled release Nitroform®. Interestingly, seven months after the summer application, the controlled release Nitroform® showed marked immobilization for three months while urea demonstrated greater N mineralization. After the winter application, fertilization with urea demonstrated greater soil inorganic N concentrations for two to three months over Nitroform®, very little N was immobilized, and volatilization was only 10 times that of Nitroform®. After summer and winter fertilizations, both fertilizer treatments significantly increased soil inorganic N concentrations and N volatilization over controls, however did not significantly increase N mineralization over controls when average response was tested over the entire sampling period. In addition to the fertilizer effects measured, a thinning only treatment was also incorporated into this study with soil N-availability indices compared to a control with no thinning or fertilization. The results from the thinning only treatment demonstrated no significant increases over the control in total KCl extractable-N, IEM-N, N-mineralization, or N volatilization when average responses were tested over the entire sampling period.
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