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The Fate Of Nitrogen Applied To Soils

F. E. Allison
Published 1966 · Chemistry

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Publisher Summary This chapter discusses the fate of nitrogen applied to soils. Nitrogen in the soil may undergo several changes. The chief channel of nitrogen loss in normal agricultural practice is probably leaching that usually occurs chiefly in the fall and spring months. The major gaseous loss is believed to be molecular nitrogen formed from nitrates and nitrites, by biological denitrification. There is also some evidence for slow and continuing losses of nitrogen to the air in the finer-textured soils, as a result of denitrification in soil aggregates or anaerobic pockets. Heavy applications of urea or ammonia may lead to nitrite formation. This inhibits nitrate formation and cause large losses of nitrogen, chiefly as molecular nitrogen in slightly acid soils. The mechanism of loss is still undetermined, but the gas is believed to result from the interaction of nitrous acid, with undetermined soil constituents. Apparently, the nitrous acid or nitrite is either reduced chemically to nitrogen gas or it may react, with NH 2 groups in the soil organic matter, according to a Van Slyke type of reaction. Two methods can be used for determining nitrogen recovery. The most accurate method for determining the recovery of added nitrogen is, by 15 N assay, provided the nitrogen remaining in the soil is determined. Nitrogen recovery can also be determined, by the difference method. This method commonly gives results that agree closely, with those, by the tracer procedure, if a residual crop is also grown, and very low nitrogen rates are avoided.
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