Zebarth, B. J., Snowdon, E., Burton, D. L., Goyer, C. and Dowbenko, R. 2012. Controlled release fertilizer product effects on potato crop response and nitrous oxide emissions under rain-fed production on a medium-textured soil. Can. J. Soil Sci. 92: 759-769. Controlled release fertilizers and split fertilizer N applications are expected to provide plant-available nitrogen (N) in synchrony with crop requirements, which should mitigate nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from agricultural soils. This study compared a polymer coated urea (PCU) controlled release N fertilizer (Environmentally Smart Nitrogen), split fertilizer N application and conventional fertilizer N management on the crop response and growing season N2O emissions from rain-fed potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) production on a medium-textured soil in Atlantic Canada from 2008 to 2010. Fertilizer were applied at the recommended rate (193 kg N ha-1) and treatments included the PCU product banded at planting, conventional fertilizer in a split application (60% as diammonium phosphate plus ammonium nitrate at planting plus 40% as ammonium nitrate at final hilling), conventional fertilizer (diammonium phosphate plus ammonium nitrate) banded at planting, and an unfertilized control. Within each year, cumulative growing season N2O emissions were closely related to soil nitrate availability as measured by nitrate exposure (sum of daily nitrate concentration in the surface soil). Split N application had no effect on crop response, and significantly reduced nitrate exposure, but did not reduce N2O emissions. With the PCU, there was evidence of increased plant N availability and greater N2O emissions. In situations where the risk of nitrate leaching is limited, substitution of a PCU product for conventional fertilizer at the same N application rate will not necessarily reduce growing season N2O emissions and may in some cases increase the risk of N2O emissions. Further research is required to determine if lowering N rates with PCU products will be effective agronomically and environmentally.
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Vol. 92 • No. 5