Recovery of Late-season 15N-labeled Fertilizer Applied to Pecan

in HortScience

The recovery of late-season (September) 15N-labeled fertilizer (N at 55 kg·ha-1) was followed in mature pecan trees [Carya illinoinensis (Wangehn.) K. Koch] and soil (0-270 cm) from 1996 (application year) through 2001 (end of study). Recovery of late-season applied 15N was compared to the recovery of six 15N applications (March through June, N at 221 kg·ha-1) of a previously reported study. By Nov. 1996, both fertilizer schedules exhibited considerable 15N accumulation below the rooting zone and just above the water table (280 cm), with 43.4% and 35.3% 15N recovered from the soil sampling profile of the September and March-June schedules, respectively. 15Nitrogen recoveries from perennial storage tissues (root and wood) were 20.6% and 10.1% under the September and March-June schedules, respectively. The 15N recoveries from annual abscission tissues (leaf, shuck, and nut) were 1.4% and 10.6% under the September and March-June schedules, respectively. By the end of the 2001 growing season, 4% and 9% of the 15N remained in the soil following the September and March-June applications, respectively. Under both fertilizer schedules, >80% of the fertilizer-N was lost to the environment through natural processes and very little was removed during harvest. Nearly 6 years following application, perennial storage of 15N remained greater in the September application (4.3% of the 15N applied) than in the March-June application (2.7% of the 15N applied). Late-season application of fertilizer-N during the kernel filling stage was stored in perennial tissues for use the following year; very little was used for current year growth of annual tissues. Increased accumulation of perennial storage N by late-season application may reduce the depletion of N caused during a heavy-cropping on-year and may moderate the alternate-bearing trend in pecan by providing a greater reservoir of N the following year.

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