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Foliar N application reduces soil NO 3 -N leaching loss in apple orchards

Dong, S., Neilsen, D., Neilsen, G.H.,and Fuchigami, L.H. 2005. Plant and Soil 268: 357-366


A comparison of the effects of foliar and soil N application was made in field-grown mature fruiting Gala/M9 apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh) in 2001 and 2002 growing seasons under Pacific Northwest growing conditions in southern British Columbia, Canada. The trees, six years old at the start of the experiment, were treated: (1) with 5 g/l urea sprays supplied every two weeks (7 times) from mid May to mid August (total about 50 g N/tree/year), (2) with the same amount of N applied to the soil with the same timing and quantity as for the foliar treatment, and (3) with no N (control). Leaf color (as SPAD readings) and N concentrations (mg/g), and soil NH4 -N and NO3--N were measured periodically throughout the two seasons. Leached NO3--N was monitored monthly via an anion exchange probe from June to October in 2001 and from May to November in 2002. Shoot length was measured in October and N concentration of one-year-oldwood and roots was determined in December of each growing season. Soil N application significantly increased shoot length relative to control or foliar N application. Leaf color, leaf N, and N concentration of one-year-old wood and roots were similarly increased relative to control by both soil and foliar N application. These treatments also increased fruit yield relative to control. There was no significant difference in yield and fruit quality between soil and foliar N applications. Soil N application increased soil NH4 -N and NO3--N content in the root zone, and also increased the NO3--N leaching loss below the root zone especially late in the growing season. Our results suggested that tree N status and yield and fruit quality could be maintained by multiple urea sprays during the growing season in apple orchards, and foliar N application will reduce the risk of soil NO3--N leaching.

Key Words

Malus domestica, nitrogen, soil application, spray