Relationship between Nitrate Leaching under Turf and Nitrate Uptake by Turfgrasses

in HortScience

Leaching-induced N losses have been shown to be minimal under turfgrasses. This is likely due to superior ability of turfgrasses to absorb nitrate. No direct evidence for this theory has been reported. The present study quantified nitrate leaching under miniature turf and nitrate uptake by individual turfgrass plants, and established the relationship between nitrate leaching loss and nitrate uptake rate. Seedlings of six Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) cultivars, `Blacksburg', `Barzan', `Connie', `Dawn', `Eclipse', and `Gnome', were planted individually in polystyrene containers filled with silica sand. The plants were irrigated with tap water or a nutrient solution containing 1 mm nitrate on alternate days and mowed to a 5-cm height once each week for 25 weeks. Nitrate leaching potential was then determined by applying 15 to 52 mL of nutrient solutions containing 7 to 70 mg·L-1 nitrate-N into the containers and collecting leachate. After the leaching experiment, plants were excavated, roots were washed to remove sand, and the plants were grown individually in containers filled with 125 mL of a nutrient solution containing 8.4 mg·L-1 nitrate-N. Nitrate uptake rate was determined by monitoring nitrate depletion at 24-hour intervals. Leachate nitrate-N concentration ranged from 0.5 to 6 mg·L-1 depending on cultivar, initial nitrate-N concentration, irrigation volume, and timing of nitrate-N application. Significant intraspecific difference in nitrate uptake rate on a root length basis was observed. Nitrate uptake rate on a per plant basis was significantly (P ≤ 0.05) and negatively correlated (r = -0.65) with nitrate leaching loss. The results provide strong evidence that superior nitrate uptake ability of turfgrass roots could reduce leaching-induced nitrate-N losses.

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