Effects of urea fertigation of apple trees on soil pH, exchangeable cations and extractable manganese in a sandy loam soil in New Zealand
Belton, P.R.th; Goh, K.M.
Fertilizer Research 33(3): 239-247
Changes in soil pH, exchangeable aluminium (Al), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K) and extractable manganese (Mn) were investigated after urea fertigation of a sandy loam soil in an apple orchard in the new Zealand. Urea at three rates (0, 25, 50 kg N ha-1 yr-1 or 0, 16.9, 33.8 g N emitter-1 yr-1) was applied in 4 equal fertigations. Soil cores at 4 profile depths (0-10, 10-20, 20-40 and 40-60 cm) directly below and 20 cm from the emitter were sampled approximately 4 weeks after each fertigation and in the following winter. Results obtained showed that the largest changes in soil pH and cations occurred in soils directly below the emitter in the 50 kg N ha-1 yr-1 treatment where the soil pH decreased by 1.6 pH units at all soil depths. The lowest pH of 4.3 was observed at a depth of 27 cm. Exchangeable Al and extractable Mn levels increased to 11 meq kg-1 and 78 mu-g g-1 respectively. Estimated losses of Ca, Mg and K from the upper soil profile depth (0-10 cm) represented 23, 63, and 27% of their respective total exchangeable levels. At lower profile depths ( gt 20 cm), accumulation of displaced K was evident. Variable, and generally non-significant, chemical changes recorded in soils 20 cm from the emitter attributed to restricted lateral water movement, and therefore urea movement, down the profile. The present study showed that one season of urea fertigation by trickle emitters, applied to a sandy loam, at half the rate conventionally applied to apple orchards (50 kg N ha-1 yr-1) resulted in pH and mineral element imbalances which were potentially and sufficiently to inhibit three growth.