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  • Author or Editor: Rebecca A. Kraimer x
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From March through June 1996, 15N-labeled fertilizer was applied to mature pecan trees [Carya illinoinensis (Wangehn.) K. Koch] in a commercial orchard to determine the fate of fertilizer-N in the tree and in the soil directly surrounding the tree. The concentrations of 15N and total N were determined within various tissue components and within the soil profile to a depth of 270 cm. By Nov. 1996, elevated levels of 15N were greatest at depths just above the water table (280 cm), suggesting a substantial loss of fertilizer-N to leaching. Recoveries of 15N from tissue and soil at the end of 1996 were 19.5% and 35.4%, respectively. Harvest removed 4.0% of the fertilizer-N applied, while 6.5% was recycled with leaf and shuck drop. In 1997, with no additional application of labeled fertilizer, the tissue components continued to exhibit 15N enrichment. By the end of the 1997 growing season, 15N levels decreased throughout the soil profile, with the most pronounced reduction at depths immediately above the water table. Estimated recoveries of 15N from pecan tissue (excluding root) and soil at the end of 1997 were 8.4% and 12.5%, respectively. In 1996 and 1997, 15N determinations indicated an accumulation of fertilizer-N in the tissues and a loss of fertilizer-N to the groundwater. Early spring growth, flowering, and embryo development used fertilizer-N applied the previous year, as well as that applied during the current year.

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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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